Here’s something pretty much everyone knows: Housing is expensive on Kauai.
Here’s something not everyone knows: There’s a group working to create housing that people can afford on Kauai, and better yet, they believe they are making progress.
“We’re here, we’re going to stay here, we’re going to make it happen,” said Jim Edmonds, president of “Permanently Affordable Living-Kauai.” “We have the patience to do it and to stick with it — and the knowledge. It’s taken us a while to build the knowledge.”
The nonprofit that recently marked its first anniversary is throwing a party from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Dec. 7 at Church of the Pacific. It will feature music, food, drinks and a silent auction, all for $20.
PAL-Kauai will also present an update on its plans, and wants public input, as well.
“It’s housing and so much more,” Edmonds said. “We’ll talk about why it’s so hard to have affordable housing on this island and what we’re doing to fix that.”
They’re also looking at ways to provide “sustainable living solutions” and restore “hope for the people of Kauai.”
Edmonds said one of PAL-Kauai’s strengths is the experience and talents of its board. It includes the likes of Greg Crowe, vice president, who is an entrepreneur, consultant and private investor with more than 40 years of business experience. There’s Larry Graff, executive director, with nearly 30 years experience in homeless and housing issues. And there’s Taylor Kahuahine Reid, born and raised on Kauai and a graduate of the University of Hawaii. Or Puna Kalama Dawson, a Hawaiian cultural practitioner and affordable housing advocate.
“As a team, we’re really strong,” Edmonds said. “All kinds of people are on our board and all of them are determined to make this happen.”
Creating “truly affordable housing,” which is not a home that starts at $500,000, is the goal. But Edmonds and friends are not under any illusions a solution will be quick or easy.
“We understand it takes money to make this kind of stuff happen and it takes a long time,” he said.
Crowe said PAL-Kauai is focusing on what he called the “missing middle” — the working class that gets by on Kauai but can’t afford to buy a home. Or they make too much to qualify for government assistance, but not enough to purchase on their own.
“Those are the people who make the island work,” he said. “That’s why we created a new nonprofit.”
And when those who work here can’t afford to buy here, “the whole island suffers,” Crowe said, as it forces locals to leave Kauai in search of a place they can afford to live, and reduces the workforce as well, thus affecting the business community.
He said land, materials and utilities, are expensive on Kauai, but there are ways to manage those costs.
Crowe said when it comes to development, Kauai has a lengthy, complicated government approval process. PAL-Kauai hopes to work with the county to streamline that process to encourage developers to build on Kauai.
It’s not just about building new housing, but about reducing the cost of living for the local middle class, Crowe said.
“We need houses for the workforce they can afford to live in,” he said.
Edmonds, principal broker of Emerald Isle Properties since 1990, said they are hoping to connect with owners of land that have multiple housing capabilities, “to bring it to us and let us help them develop it.”
“Our vision is, we need to have some new communities on this island,” he said.
They are also looking for contractors willing to step in and help while knowing making money isn’t the objective.
Churches with land are another possible source for larger housing projects.
The high costs of energy, food and transportation must be addressed, as well, Edmonds said. PAL-Kauai believes it can help reduce expenses by being involved with design, infrastructure, finances, and meeting building requirements
“We can’t do it alone,” he said. “We need your help.”
Edmonds has been involved in the effort to create affordable housing on Kauai for more than three years, and said, “I haven’t made a nickel and I don’t know that I ever will. I’m not trying to make money. I’m trying to get houses built cheaply.”
According to Zillow, an online real estate database company, the median home value in Kauai County is $579,100. Kauai County home values have gone up 7% over the past year.
‘The median price of homes currently listed in Kauai County is $882,450 while the median price of homes that sold is $639,200,” Zillow reported.
Meanwhile, Hawaii’s minimum wage remains $10.10 an hour.
Edmonds fears a “perfect storm” of rising housing costs and low wages are taking a toll on Kauai’s working class and unless something is done, soon, the problem will only get worse.
“We all realize we have to do something,” he said.
PAL-Kauai is hoping to see a big crowd at next weekend’s party.
“We are working on many possible development projects — large and small. And we ask everyone — including you, now — to bring us new ideas and projects,” Edmonds wrote.
He said those with knowledge of development, affordable housing, planning or other fields that could help them succeed are needed and wanted.
“You can help with this work,” he said.
Bill Buley, editor-in-chief, can be reached at 245-0457 or firstname.lastname@example.org.