Kauai residents seek state’s help to preserve affordable housing

Their rent was capped until a few years ago. Now, the complex could be sold.
Published: May. 31, 2023 at 7:11 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Residents at a Kauai housing project are asking for the state’s help to keep their apartments affordable.

They say the owner of the Courtyards at Waipouli Apartments plans to sell the 82-unit Kapaa complex to a private developer, and they’re asking the state for funding to keep rents at affordable levels.

“There is no affordable housing, and I have diligently looked everywhere every day,” said Waipouli resident Rowena Contredes Pangan.

“There’s nothing cheaper than $2,000 a month.”

Built-in 2009, the owners of the Waipouli apartments have been required to charge affordable rents for the first ten years. Kauai County had the option to purchase the homes in 2019 and preserve the cheap rents.

But residents said the county didn’t have the money at the time -- resulting in escalating rents during the past several years.

Since 2019, Evin Contredes said his rent at the Waipouli has jumped from $1,800 monthly to $2,900. As a 71-year-old retiree on a fixed income, he said he can’t afford more rent increases.

“Without the state (helping) purchase this property, we’re gonna be out on the street,” he said.

Housing advocates said the state could help the residents by providing financing for a nonprofit developer, which would bring rents back down to affordable levels.

Under this scenario, rents would revert back to $1,300 for a one-bedroom unit and $1,900 for a three-bedroom apartment, said Kenna StormoGipson, director of housing policy with the Hawaii Budget and Policy Center arm of the Hawaii Appleseed Center for Law & Economic Justice.

“What needs to be done is we need public money in housing. That is really the only way to preserve affordability,” said StormoGipson.

The state had no immediate comment.