Must move

  • Ryan Collins / The Garden Island

    Larisa Jensen, a resident of the Courtyards at Waipouli Apartments, and her 2-year-old son pay rent at the complex administrative building Wednesday. Jensen and her two sons are one of the families that must move out of the affordable housing units in August.

  • Ryan Collins / The Garden Island

    The Courtyards at Waipouli Apartments are home to 31 families that will be forced to move in August due to an expiring contract with the county for the affordable housing units. The county has a built-in option to buy the complex, but declined at the owner’s asking price of $37 million in December.

WAIPOULI — Larisa Jensen is a 26-year-old single mother of two, one of 31 families living in affordable housing at the Courtyards at Waipouli Apartments.

In August, she will be forced to move from the home where she has raised her two boys alone. She may have to join the military as a means of supporting her two children and ensuring housing, she explained with tears in her eyes.

Effectively, Jensen said she will be forced off Kauai as a result of the pending sale of the Courtyards. She works two full-time jobs to be able to afford her rental unit.

“I’m just going to accept the fact that I can’t go to my mom’s house anymore,” she said. “Luckily, I have family here, but rent control is ridiculous. They’re asking for a studio at $1,400 a month. I can’t afford that.”

The Courtyards offers 41 units that are designated “affordable housing.” For the last ten years, it has been contractually obligated to accept residents who earn 80 percent or less than the Kauai’s median household income, but that stipulation expires in August.

The units will be sold by the current owner, KD Waipouli LLC and manager Kevin Showe, and the units will become higher-priced rentals.

Ten affordable units have already been vacated.

The rent for the affordable units is based on percentage of income. For example, the rate for a one bedroom unit for occupants making 65 percent of the medium income is $989, while tenants who earn 85 percent of the median income pay $1,244.

The county has a built-in option within the affordable housing 10-year contract to purchase the units and keep it from being sold on the open market, but the asking price is $37 million. That price was offered to the county at the end of 2018 and is one the county administration has not been willing to enter into negotiations over.

“On behalf of the County of Kauai, the Kauai County Housing Council Agency regrettably declines to accept KD Waipouli’s offer for the Waipouli Project at the current offered price,” Housing Director Kanani Fu said in a letter to Showe and KD Waipouli dated on Dec. 17, 2018.

A clause within the 2010 contract between the county and the Courtyards’ owner gives the county another option. In the event that the two parties cannot agree on a price, the contract stipulates that the value of the property can be assessed by three different appraisers, with the fair market value determined by the decision of two of the three appraisers.

Councilman Mason Chock proposed a resolution to get the issue on the agenda at the March 13 meeting, but it never materialized. Instead, eight citizens waited for county council members outside their chambers that day. They were trying to catch them during their recess to express just how dire their situation is with the pending August deadline to vacate their units.

Several council members listened patiently as residents explained why they needed the council’s help to keep their homes. Some hold hope that the state will intervene and buy the units, but hope is slowly fading.

“The state has told us this is a county issue,” said Jody Kono, a resident of a two-bedroom unit.

Kono has lived in the units since November after struggling to find an affordable place beforehand. The only other option for her besides the affordable housing unit she is in was an overpriced studio apartment in Waimea. If there is no intervention, she will have to move a third time in five years.

Kono knows that the situation is dire and there is not much hope, but she speaks out nonetheless because she sees this issue as something that has a bigger picture.

“If the mayor demands a sit-down face to face, they will have to honor that,” Kono said, adding that she was advised on the matter by many political parties.

Kauai County Council Chair Arryl Kaneshiro explained to one of the residents at the March 13 impromptu discussion that a council resolution is not binding and does not guarantee anything.

“There was a resolution in a process to hit the agenda that encouraged Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corporation to work with the developer to purchase the property,” he said. “Prior to the resolution hitting the agenda, the county was informed by HHFDC that they were not able to strike a deal to purchase due to timing and price factors. Any hope of that deal is done.”

The housing department will be meeting with the residents regarding any county programs and options to facilitate relocations, according to Kaneshiro.

“I understand the sensitivity and urgency of the situation and don’t want to mislead anyone or provide false hope. My intention has and always will be to provide realistic expectations through this process,” he said in an email.

Barry Parris, who has resided at the Courtyards for several years, is frustrated.

“Going to market and being evicted are two very different things,” he said.

Rep. Jimmy Tokioka, who represents the Waipouli district in the Legislature, said he isn’t sure why the previous administration didn’t acquire the property in the past.

“As far as I know, the legislature put aside money for affordable housing statewide in the tune of $500 million last session,” Tokioka said. “I don’t think there are any plans for the county or the state to purchase those units, but what I do know is that the county under the previous administration had the opportunity to buy back the units and for some reason … they did not opt-in to purchase the property.”

In a Nov. 11, 2018 guest commentary published in The Garden Island, former councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura wrote that the county’s policy on long-term affordability for housing was not working, citing the situation at the Courtyards at Waipouli as an example.

The 82-unit affordable housing rental project across from Kintaro Restaurant was required as a condition of zoning for the Kauai Lagoons resort development (750 luxury oceanfront condos above the Kauai Marriott), but it had only a 10-year buy-back clause, she wrote.

“In 2009, in an act of short-sightedness, the County Council and mayor permanently waived the affordability requirement for 41 of the 82 units. Next year, on Aug. 19, 2019, the buy-back clause expires and with it the affordability of the remaining affordable units,” Yukimura wrote.

“Forty-one qualified families renting there will have to move. So will the other 41 who are renting at market rates if the units are converted to vacation rentals. In this current housing market, where will all these families go? Instead of expanding, Kauai’s affordable housing inventory will be shrinking.”

In his budget submitted to the county council, Mayor Derek S.K. Kawakami listed affordable housing as the number two priority.

“We have identified state lands near our Water Department in Lihue as a potential site to build such housing for our homeless families,” the budget reads.

The residents are not giving up hope that they will be able to remain in their homes as they collect signatures to help their cause and have issued letters to the county council.

Pua, a female resident who declined to give her last name, has lived in the complex for the past three years. She has two boys, the oldest of whom is graduating this May and will be moving out. The other son will be staying for the next few years until he graduates from high school.

“First I was like, ‘I have plenty of time,’” she said. “When we got the date, which is August of this year, we were kind of in shock because I don’t want to move again. You know, it’s stressful and on top of that, I am sending a kid to college. It’s rough right now.”

•••

Ryan Collins, county reporter, can be reached at 245-0424 or rcollins@thegardenisland.com.

16 Comments
  1. Being_Honest April 4, 2019 7:46 am Reply

    Maybe it’s a good thing you have to get off this island. Get your kids off this island. Give them a chance at life. Kids here grow up too fast, get pregnant too young and become a system leach or they get in with the wrong crowd and go down the drug path. Being forced to join the military is a bit dramatic. You could go to the mainland and get a good job, cheap rent, and be independent… you are only as stuck as you allow yourself to be.


    1. Kauai Army Ranger April 4, 2019 1:56 pm Reply

      The military is not an option for a single parent. She will not have an adequate family care plan and won’t be considered. As a former county worker for the summers during college I’ve seen a lot of fraud waste and abuse within the County of Kaua’i system. Hopefully the voters of Kaua’i will elect leaders and hold them accountable. I hate to see elections become popularity contest all the time and don’t appoint by merit.


  2. Dt April 4, 2019 8:04 am Reply

    37 million for 41 units….sheesh, can you blame the county ? That price seems a little high.


  3. Rev Dr. Malama April 4, 2019 8:28 am Reply

    What a stinking mess the county has created here on the garbage island…..
    HEWA NOT PONO!!!


  4. Suzan Kelsey Brooks April 4, 2019 8:34 am Reply

    Does this mean that the zoning for Kauai Lagoons is also being rescinded?


  5. Jake April 4, 2019 10:49 am Reply

    “She may have to join the military as a means of supporting her two children and ensuring housing, she explained with tears in her eyes.”

    Is this the Bravo Channel? She has to join the military?????? She can move to the mainland and not join the military…spare me the drama. SMH.


  6. Marie April 4, 2019 1:50 pm Reply

    Why on earth should tax dollars get spent so you can live on the beach forever? And most people can’t afford across from the beach anyway. Any money to subsidize housing would be better spent on providing more places for more people versus the chosen few who have gotten to live there.


  7. Oingo boingo April 4, 2019 2:00 pm Reply

    Since the affordable tag was only good for 10 yrs…so should the zoning for kauai lagoons…
    An eye for an eye….sounds fare to me


  8. dderek April 4, 2019 2:55 pm Reply

    the gimmegimme handout mentality. can just join up with another derelict family moving from the courtyard and get a place together, split the rent. problem solved! …or join the military HA!


  9. Anthony Harold Greene April 4, 2019 6:02 pm Reply

    Why should us tax payers be forced to pay for these families to live there 37 million for 41 units is a huge amount of money. I am a single mother of 4 I work my butt off and can make it on Kauai so saying she’s being forced off the island to join the military is a joke.


  10. manawai April 4, 2019 9:07 pm Reply

    @ Suzan Kelsey Brooks & Oingo Boingo (good band btw)
    This isn’t a change in zoning. It was an agreement that enabled the original developer and the County to provide affordable housing for a specific period of time. If that agreement hadn’t been made, those affordable units would never have been built. The developer only invested in the project in expectation that it would go to market in 10 years and it could start making a return on its investment.


  11. Conor April 5, 2019 7:53 am Reply

    They all knew they had an end date to move out! You aren’t stuck on Kauai people!! You can’t live forever with a free handout!


  12. Tom bartlett April 5, 2019 7:59 am Reply

    Some heartless comments. Poor gal works two jobs. Why should she have to move? Maybe she was born here.


  13. Terry R. Harper April 5, 2019 9:53 am Reply

    Sometimes you have to make hard decisions like maybe moving to the mainland and raising children an affordable area where more opportunities are available.


  14. LMat April 5, 2019 12:57 pm Reply

    I wonder how many of those commenting were born and raised here, their families going back generations? I wonder how many of them are single parents living paycheck to paycheck with nothing saved up for a rainy day (or a life-changing move across the ocean)? I wonder how many of them had to quit jobs, take their children out of schools, pack up everything they own and move thousands of miles away from everything they have ever known… Real easy yah?
    Your tax dollars are being used to raise the salaries of county employees already making 6-figure incomes. Your tax dollars are gonna pay for the legal expenses incurred by two corrupt Honolulu county employees!!! Y’all crying about that?


  15. Educateyourself April 7, 2019 5:43 pm Reply

    For $37 mill the county could build more than 41 units and own the rights to it forever. Problem is, like the state, the county is full of unqualified people working jobs they have no business working and then have no desire or motivation to do well since there is so much job security. So much waste in our government. Start there. Cut jobs there. People can do more in almost every position than they are currently doing.

    Also, it sucks but if your aren’t able to live on Kauai maybe you should look into getting a job that pays better. Or getting the qualifications that will get you a higher paying job. It’s not easy, and I know a lot of people including myself that went back to school for 2nd or 3rd careers and are in much better positions now after sacrificing 2-4 years for education. Change your outlook, change your situation.


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