Calling Kamakoa home


The first Big Islanders could move in to Hawaii County’s $44 million Kamakoa Nui affordable housing project at Waikoloa in summer 2013, Hawaii County officials said Thursday.

“Let’s make sure the next time we’re here, we hear children laughing, families playing and the pride of having a family home,” Mayor Billy Kenoi said during a soft opening at the Waikoloa project site.

With a lis pendens, or cloud on the title of the land, expunged effective Monday, Hawaii County can now move forward with broker Aldridge and Associates toward selling the lots and constructing family homes, said Steve Arnett, Office of Housing and Community Development administrator.

The county is also funding an estimated $2.5 million extension of Paniolo Avenue, which will eventually become the main entrance to the new community. He said Waikoloa Heights, which originally was supposed to build the road but did not, will have to reimburse the county for the money fronted. Kenoi added the county would approve no projects for the developer until that is done.

Arnett anticipates the county will hit the ground as soon as the bidding process for home construction is complete. Families should be moving into homes of the first phase, which will eventually comprise 91 homes, including 68 one- and two-story homes and 23 bungalows, by the end of summer 2013, Arnett said.

“We will go to bid instantly” when people have signed the final papers, he said. “We hope to have the first families living in these homes before this time next year.”

The home prices will range from $235,000 to $350,000, down from the project’s original concept and design that set prices from $350,000 to $475,000, said Kenoi.

“Today, we’re talking between $235,000 and $350,000, fee simple and no additional fees,” said Kenoi. “That sounds affordable to me.”

The change in price can be attributed to a variety of reasons, including the county taking the project in house; removing homeowners’ association and facility district charges; among others.

Homeowners will also own the land since the lots will be sold fee simple, said Arnett, adding the county, after speaking with Kauai County, learned leasehold homes were difficult to move on the market. Initially, the lots were to be sold as leasehold, which means a person owns the home, but leases the land upon which it sits. He also noted, to deter speculation, a homeowner will have to share windfall profit if selling before 15 years.

About 20 people, primarily county officials and others associated with the project and a couple of the potential homeowners, took part in the soft opening held Thursday afternoon at the site on the northwestern edge of Waikoloa. There, a blessing was held and the announcement made that the county is moving forward with the project.

Larry Denis, a Waikoloa Elementary School teacher who’s been interested in the project since 2007 and is currently on the lottery list of prospective buyers, said he is happy that even years after taking a job in Waikoloa teaching and having to rent during that period, to see the project coming to fruition.

“I’m ready for the next step,” he said. “It’s exciting.”

While the project is finally moving closer to reality with the recent Intermediate Court of Appeals ruling upholding 3rd Circuit Court Judge Elizabeth Strance’s expunging of the lis pendens, the county still remains in litigation with UniDev, the project’s original developer, regarding arbitration and trial over items contained in the lawsuit filed in 2009, said assistant Corporation Counsel Laureen Martin.

The workforce housing project dates to 2004, when the county sought proposals to construct 1,000 affordable homes in the Waikoloa area. Hawaii County picked UniDev Hawaii for the project in 2005. The company said the first home would be complete in early 2008; however, delays have been continual with the first homes now expected in summer 2013. Ultimately the project will include 1,200 rental and for-sale homes on 268 acres.