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Four families get keys to new houses in Waikoloa

Updated: 
December 18, 2013 - 10:18am

Four families will be home for Christmas, thanks to the tireless efforts of those who remained committed to Hawaii County’s Kamakoa Nui.

The families got the keys to their houses, at the affordable workforce development in Waikoloa, and festive wreaths for their front doors from county officials during a celebration Tuesday.

Kaloa Robinson of the Office of Housing and Community Development said that Kamakoa Nui means “a higher quality of life.” Robinson spoke of the “perseverance, sacrifice and vision” it took to reach this milestone and shared his hopes the development will become a place of safety, peace, resilience and community.

Hawaii County Managing Director Wally Lau described Kamakoa Nui as a place of refuge for families, one that fulfills the administration’s commitment toward creating healthy families and communities. For him, Tuesday was not just about the homes, but about the values, such as hui laulima (groups working together to reach a goal) and kuleana (responsibility), that were embraced to make this project a reality.

In 2005, Hawaii County selected UniDev LLC for the $44 million public-private affordable housing partnership. The initial plan for Kamakoa Nui was for rental and for-sale units, with one- and two-bedroom units offered at 20 percent below area market rates. Small, bungalow-style homes were to be sold to people earning less than 120 percent of the average median income. Single-family homes were also supposed to be sold. In 2004, the county sought proposals to build 1,000 affordable homes in Waikoloa. When awarded the contract, UniDev said the first home would be finished in 2008.

Stephen Arnett, director of the Office and Community Development, said Kamakoa Nui was handed in 2008 to Mayor Billy Kenoi’s administration “under a dark cloud,” with the project stalled, under legal scrutiny and with much higher projected home prices.

Hawaii County sued UniDev in 2009, alleging fraud, intentional misrepresentation and negligence in UniDev’s inability to proceed with the project. In 2012, the state’s Intermediate Court of Appeals ruled most of the county’s claims against UniDev and UniDev’s counterclaims against the county were not subject to arbitration. In May, the state Supreme Court ruled the appellate court was incorrect and ruled the county would have to go back into arbitration.

Arnett said the county decided in 2009 to take control of the project and make changes, including finding ways to make the homes more affordable and cut costs. Since then, the county has kept things on time and under budget, he added.

The site work, first model homes and the community park were completed in 2011. Sales of homes began in 2012.

Twelve homes have been sold so far. The four houses celebrated and toured Tuesday were completed earlier this month by Coastal Construction, which was approximately two to three weeks ahead of schedule, Arnett said. The remaining eight will be built once the county gets the money to do so, he added.

The one- and two-story houses and bungalows will range from $235,000 to $350,000.

To discourage speculation and keep the fee-simple homes affordable, the county imposed restrictions on the properties. Buyers must live within a 30-mile radius of Kamakoa Nui and have an income of no more than 140 percent of the area median income. For a family of four, that comes out to $97,440.

Buyers must live in the homes and cannot have owned a home within the past three years. Those who resell their homes within 15 years of the initial purchase are required to share any windfall profits from the resales with the county. Buyers will assume full ownership of their home and land after 15 years.

Additionally, Habitat For Humanity will purchase four lots at Kamakoa Nui, allowing families with even lower average monthly incomes to be able to afford homes, according to the county.

Following speeches by county officials, Abundant Life Ministries Pastor Lani Larrua welcomed the four families to the Waikoloa community and blessed their homes.

Most of the development’s first residents, all first-time homeowners, said they plan to move into their new digs this week.

Shayne Cacoulidis said his family’s house was one of his greatest accomplishments as a husband and father.

For Peter, Wendy and Shaniah Spear, their house represented “a fresh start” and “a chance to be part of the community.”

Standing in the middle of the living room in her new house, Shyanne Parong said she felt “overwhelmed and excited.” She looked forward to having a barbecue and playing host during the holidays, as well as starting a garden with her family. “We’re ready to set roots,” she said.

Eliezer and Janice Corpuz couldn’t stop smiling while watching their 3-year-old son, Eizel Jhan, run up the stairs, down the hallways, hide in closets and peek out windows. The boy declared it was his house more than once to visiting guests touring inside and offering congratulations.

Eliezer said he felt “Happy. Really happy. This is a dream come true.”

For more information, visit kamakoanui.com.