Kauai County officials looking for temporary housing for flood victims

Updated: Jun. 7, 2018 at 7:58 PM HST
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KAUAI (Hawaii News Now) - Almost two months after the historic flooding disaster, Kauai County officials estimate as many as 50 residents are still displaced from their homes.

Wainiha resident Kehau Haumea says she's living in a makeshift shelter built by international relief group Samaritan's Purse until she's able to fix her home, which suffered significant water damage.

"I am very very grateful. I'm not homeless, I'm houseless," said Haumea.

Other families are living in their cars, in parks, or in tents.

"Just the amount of water that flowed through people's homes, and then of course the mold starts to grow, so the idea is to get in there and get that stuff out," said Shannon Daley, project manager for Samaritan's Purse.

Kauai County Councilman Mason Chock, the chair of the planning committee, says natural disasters of this magnitude -- combined with the island's housing crisis -- is a bad combination.

"What we're finding is the recoveries are taking a lot longer. So while we'd love to get people into their home in two to three months, the fact is that we probably have to look at a period of two years," Chock said.

Because of this, county leaders and community groups are trying to come up with creative ways to get rooves over people's heads sooner.

Chock says vacation rentals in Wainiha and Haena may be a solution.

Right now, these rentals aren't allowed to operate or take in visitors under Mayor Carvalho's emergency proclamation.

"I think what we're looking at is trying to appeal to the vacation rental owners to kind of meet the community halfway and say there's a need, will you be able to fill it," said Chock. "This opportunity could really take us the length of the emergency proclamation, which I can anticipate going into November."

Chock says another idea -- that could also be a long-term solution -- is the building of Komatsu homes.

These emergency homes are the same ones used for tsunami victims in Japan and at Kahauiki Village on Oahu.

"We want to get people back to as normal as can. I think with these creative ways, we can really work together to make it a win-win," said Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho.

To help residents whose homes were damaged by flooding, the council unanimously approved an emergency ordinance Wednesday that would expedite the building permit application process and waive fees for homeowners.

It goes into effect immediately with Carvalho's signature.

And Malama Kauai is making mini-grants available for flood victims. Applications are being accepted until Friday, June 8, so that grants will be issued after June 15.

The mini-grants are available to owner-occupants and renters whose homes became uninhabitable or unsafe due to the flood, and the total amount of available funding is currently $100,000.

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