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Future of converting Kapaa housing development to affordable housing uncertain

LIHU‘E — Kaua‘i County Council members approved a resolution urging the county to acquire the Courtyards at Waipouli apartments last week, but the future of the complex as an affordable housing development remains unclear.

At last Wednesday’s county council meeting, council members voted unanimously in favor of Resolution 2023-58, which aims to preserve the 82-unit, multi-family dwelling for affordable housing.

According to the resolution, the council supports all administrative efforts to obtain the property and encourages county administration to come to an agreement with the building’s owners, KD Waipouli LLC, “to receive a fair market price for the acquisition of the Courtyards.”

“This is not a controversial resolution. We do support this,” said council member Bernard Carvalho Jr., at the meeting, after hearing public testimony from several Kaua‘i residents who lamented the lack of affordable housing options on the island.

The resolution describes some of the history of the two-story Waipouli Courtyards, which was built in 2009 under the Kaua‘i Lagoons Affordable Housing Agreement.

Under the agreement, KD Waipouli LLC was required to charge affordable rents for 41 — or 50 percent — of the 82 units for the first 10 years after its construction was completed.

When the affordability restriction expired on Aug. 19, 2019, the county declined to purchase the property through a first-right-to-purchase clause.

Affordable housing advocates have held multiple press conferences over the last couple of months calling for the county and/or state to buy the 82-unit housing development, which is currently on the market for $43 million.

Council Chair Mel Rapozo first announced his plan for a resolution that calls for a county purchase of the property during advocates’ most recent press conference on Aug. 11.

“I will commit to you that our council will do our best to make sure we do our best to try to encourage our administration to rethink this,” he said at the August conference.

The resolution notes the open market sale of the apartments would result in the loss of 41 previously affordable units, intensifying Kaua‘i’s current housing crisis. Rapozo has stated his concern about a private buyer turning the units into short-term rentals or timeshares.

During last week’s county council meeting, affordable housing researcher Kenna Stormogipson asked the county and the state to each put roughly $10 to $15 million toward the purchase of the property, and said “philanthropic donors” on the island would be able to pitch in the remaining amount.

“If the county can come in that range of 10 to 15 (million dollars), combined with some other funders, now that can bring the loan on the building down to within a range where it’s sustainable and affordable, and can remain so in perpetuity,” said StormoGipson.

The county’s public information officer Kim Tamaoka previously stated county administration learned of Rapozo’s resolution after receiving an email inquiry from The Garden Island on Aug. 23.

Tamaoka has also maintained the county has no plans to purchase the property.

“The administration will continue to support the purchase by an outside entity, as well as the desire to keep the units affordable,” said Tamaoka in an email response on Monday.

“We have been in communication with interested parties prior to the passage of the council’s resolution, and we intend to continue on this path,” she added.

Adam Roversi, the director of the Kaua‘i Housing Agency, discussed the county’s efforts to keep the units affordable during last week’s council meeting.

“We’re already doing what the resolution is asking,” Roversi said, noting that his department has been working with Ikaika ‘Ohana, a nonprofit affordable housing developer based in Maui, on a bid to purchase the property for “quite some time.”

In August, Ikaika ‘Ohana’s application to the Hawai‘i Housing Finance and Development Corporation, which asked the state to purchase the property through the use of federal and low-income tax credits, was passed over.

Roversi did not mention the nonprofit’s application had not been selected for funding, but he noted the county administration is also in discussion with the Department of Hawaiian Homelands about “their involvement in potentially purchasing the apartments.

“So work is already going on behind the scenes to try to do exactly what this resolution is asking,” he said.

In a message response to The Garden Island on Monday, Rapozo, who was not in attendance at last week’s council meeting, said questions regarding further action should be directed to Roversi.

“(Roversi) stated that they were working on it. The council will support the admin in their efforts,” Rapozo said.

Affordable housing advocates plan to continue their efforts for a government acquisition of the apartments during an upcoming press conference in the parking lot of Kapa‘a restaurant Kintaro’s on Sept. 30.

“The county still needs to put money into the investment of the Waipouli Courtyards to make it feasible,” said affordable housing advocated Summer Lee Yadao, who works with StormoGipson, on the purpose of the press conference.


Emma Grunwald, reporter, can be reached 808-652-0638 or
Source: The Garden Island

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