LIHUE — A full, seven-member County Council went through a packed agenda Wednesday morning in Lihue.
The council heard emotional public testimony from two residents of the Courtyards at Waipouli Apartments about a resolution by the council supporting efforts towards preserving the affordability restrictions and the potential acquisition of the 82-unit property before Aug. 19, when a 10-year affordability contract with the county expires.
According to the resolution that was introduced by Councilmember KipuKai Kuali‘i, a letter dated May 28, was sent by Managing Director Michael Dahilig to KD Waipouli LLC that has initiated the appraisal procedures for the property.
The resolution pledges support for the administration’s efforts.
The resolution states further that “the administration is requested to negotiate an extension of the current tenancies at Courtyards at Waipouli, as necessary, until appraisals of the property are complete and evaluated by KD Waipouli LLC, the County of Kauai, and Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corporation (HHFDC).”
The HHFDC is a state agency tasked with developing and financing low- and moderate-income housing projects and administers several programs targeted at increasing and preserving the supply of decent, safe and sanitary affordable housing for extremely-low-income households including homeless families.
The council received six public testimonies in favor of the resolution in addition to the two residents before voting unanimously to adopt the resolution.
“You have a developer that no longer is interested in dealing with the county and helping us out,” Council Vice Chair Ross Kagawa said.
“Knowing that families are going to be suffering and be out of housing, I think the only way I can see we can help this problem, the local residents that we are going to help, is we have to find them alternative options because this guy wants to deal with the market price and that is it. So I don’t know whether this resolution is going to get the developer to try and deviate from what he stated, and I don’t think that is going to happen.”
Kagawa stated that he hopes the island’s rental-housing market can accommodate some of the residents.
“Right now, the county, we did send a letter back to the developer stating that we are going to go through the appraisal process,” Council Chair Arryl Kaneshiro said. “Previously the $37 million was just an asking price. We don’t know if that was fair-market value. We do know that if HHFDC is going to buy it, they need an appraisal. So basically we are taking that first step and we are going to ask for an appraisal and what that number turns out to be, we don’t know and if we can afford it, we don’t know.”
Kaneshiro added that the council cannot force anyone to sell, but that this is the first step to assess the value of the units and if there is a willingness on both sides to sell and purchase the property.
Larry Graff, executive director of the Neighborhood Housing Community Development Corporation, commended the council for putting forth the resolution, and gave public testimony on the subject.
“I can’t imagine that this is a deal that can move forward without some county support in terms of not just a resolution, but funds,” Graff said. “There are a lot of private developers there with a great deal of experience and additional capital to put into a project like that. Neighborhood Housing has been quietly behind the scenes looking at this deal very carefully, and we think there might be some solutions. We stand ready to support you.”
Former mayor and councilmember JoAnn Yukimura gave public testimony on the resolution, after reading a letter written by a Courtyard resident in favor of the resolution as part of her testimony.
“It’s already built, it’s families that we need to save, and it’s not more expensive than building another unit,” Yukimura ended her testimony saying.
Kuali‘i warned that this resolution, even if passed, does not guarantee that the property would be acquired by the county.
“As a county, we had already almost given up, and this is one last try,” Kuali‘i said.
“So there are no promises, but there is hope, and the hope is that by partnering we can do the right thing. The fact that there is even that opportunity to work with the seller and that the administration is willing to do the work by initiating this procedure that we’re entitled with the appraisers means there’s some movement and there’s some hope.”
Kaneshiro stated that the county is not going to purchase the property.
“I can tell you firsthand that the county is not going to buy it. We don’t have the money to buy it,” Kaneshiro said. “We don’t have $37 million, and we don’t even have $20 million if it was $20 million. HHFDC, luckily a state company, has the money available.
“They’re interested in it, and this resolution and that ask for appraisal are the first of a few steps in order to see if we can make something happen. But I don’t want to provide false hope for anybody at all, saying that, ‘don’t worry, we’re going to purchase this whole property and it’s going to stay at affordable housing forever.’ It just depends, and there’s going to be a lot of things that need to take place to make that happen.”
Ryan Collins, county reporter, can be reached at 245-0424 or email@example.com.