A resolution to save the residents at the Courtyards at Waipouli Apartments was a good start by our County Council. Now the real work begins. The resolution begins the process of settling on a “fair market value” of the complex, which will be done through independent assessors.
The resolution is the first step in setting a firm selling price on the property. The council made it clear that the county does not have the money within their budget to outright acquire the property, but there is hope that the Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corporation does have the funds, and is interested.
“We have been in discussions with the county, and we anticipate meeting in the near future to try and determine a course of action moving forward,” said Kent Miyasaki, HHFDC’s media relations man. Executive Director Craig K. Hirai will be making the trip personally in the near future, said Miyasaki.
The owner and manager of Waipouli LLC, Kevin Showe, asked $37 million in a letter to the new administration last November for the 82-unit property which was built in 2009 and came with a 10-year affordable housing stipulation, keeping 41 of the units at “affordable rates.” The original contract is expiring on August 19, and has many families on Kauai feeling the crunch and reality of the housing crisis.
The truth is that the residents of Waipouli are paying based on percentages of their income. For example, the rate for a one-bedroom unit for occupants making 65% of the median income is $989, while tenants who earn 85 percent of the median income pay $1,244. Many of them will be forced into an already crammed housing market (that’s putting it lightly) come August if a deal is not struck by the 19th.
This is an opportunity for the county and the new administration to make their mark and prove that they mean what they say. It was stated many times that affordable housing is a top priority by many candidates seeking office last year. The time has come now to show that they are willing to follow through and not do the common trope of giving lip service.
What better opportunity do they have to show their constituents that they are here for their voters and have their best interests in mind? It was brought up several times during the Wednesday council meeting that the average cost of the units if bought for the asking price of $37 million will average out to $451,000 per unit.
For that average price per unit, it’s an opportunity to purchase an existing property that may cost less than washing their hands and building a new, affordable housing unit of that size. It makes sense on paper, especially considering that the units are not in the red and have a healthy profit margin already. It also makes sense because it would show citizens that their elected officials really are there for them in a tangible way and will go to battle for them if need be.
This is an opportunity to help the working class that is truly invaluable to the community and would keep several residents housed and paying their taxes, and to show them that you, the elected official, mean what you say when you told people affordable housing was a top priority while seeking office. Now is the time when the rubber meets the road, and we will see how far our elected officials are willing to go to protect their own and keep them on-island.
If the money is not there, then there are certainly other avenues that can be pursued from outside investors. But the work and the will must be there in order for it to get done, and the clock is certainly ticking.
Ryan Collins, county reporter, can be reached at 245-0424 or email@example.com.