Leasehold Owners Face Evictions by the New Year

Published: Dec. 22, 2007 at 3:04 AM HST|Updated: Dec. 24, 2007 at 6:51 PM HST
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Calvin Santos
Calvin Santos
Sarah Way
Sarah Way
Vishakha Jokiel
Vishakha Jokiel

By Mari-Ela David

KAILUA (OAHU) -- An already stressful holiday season gets even more difficult for a number of Windward Oahu families. They're about to lose their homes. As of New Years Eve, some leasehold owners in Kailua will be kicked out of their co-op, even though they've offered to buy the land.

The landowner, Kaneohe Ranch, has decided to end negotiations, leaving residents at The Kailuan, Inc. wondering why, saying they've offered a million dollars more than the value of the land.

If evicted, the fear is it'll be the start of a rash of other evictions throughout the island for those who own a home, but not the land.

This christmas could be their last at the Kailuan. By December 31st, residents must find a new home.

"Not only do I need affordable, I need accessibility. To do that by January 1st is I think impossible," said Sarah Way, a leasehold owner with a disability.

Residents had hoped Kaneohe Ranch would let them buy the land so they can keep their homes, but negotiations fell through.

"We have offered a price over that of what a developer would get and there's no reason why they wouldn't sell to us," said Vishaka Jokiel, a Kailuan leasehold owner.

In a statement, Kaneohe Ranch says "We are especially concerned because the shareholders do not have a loan commitment to finance the purchase. Simply put, closing the transaction after the term of the current lease is unacceptable."

"We were ready and able to close on a loan to purchase the property by the end of the year and Kaneohe Ranch walked away from the table," said James Severson, a Kailuan board member.

Kaneohe Ranch says residents had two years to find a new home, and offered each family $10,000 to help them move.

"It was really a move to divide us and to take people out who knew that they had really no other chance and really couldn't afford to stay and fight," said Severson.

Some fear losing this fight could set an alarming precedent.

"Where the rich get rich and the poor get poor, is this going to keep continuing? More homeless on the street?" said Calvin Santos, a supporter of leasehold owners at the Kailuan.

Kaneohe Ranch says it also rejected the offer because residents failed to meet a federal mandate to close a cesspool at the Kailuan.

The Environmental Protection Agency issued the mandate in 2005, but granted a 2-year extension.

Severson says they're ready to connect to a sewer line, pending a thumbs up from the city, and have set up a $500,000 contingency fund to cover the cost of any EPA fines.

Residents at the Kailuan say, by law, Kaneohe Ranch is supposed to offer the land to them first before selling to anyone else. They say Kaneohe Ranch has already expressed its intent to sell to a third party, possibly Horton/Schuler.

Horton/Schuler is the developer Kaneohe Ranch sold all of its properties surrounding the Kailuan to.

Leasehold owners claim Kaneohe Ranch has stripped them of their legal right to buy the land, saying it is circumventing the law to accommodate a third-party.

In its statement, Kaneohe Ranch says, "Based on our years of experience in construction and development, we are skeptical that the Kailuan would ever be a viable affordable housing project when the property must be purchased at fair market price."