HILO — There’s good news for Waikaloa resort workers who’ve been waiting seven years to move into affordable housing closer to their workplaces.
The first group of applicants will be notified as soon as Monday that they’ve been selected to start the paperwork leading to purchase of their custom-built homes in the new Kamakoa Nui development, said Hawaii County Housing Administrator Stephen Arnett.
“I can’t tell you how excited we are about this,” Arnett said Thursday. “The lawsuit left a sour taste in our mouth. We’re hoping the sour will become sweet.”
The project, aiming to provide single-family houses in the $225,000-$335,000 range for workers who currently live as far away as Puna, has been stalled by disputes with developers, leading to litigation.
Historically low interest rates should help the applicants qualify for the homes, and Arnett said he’s hopeful that will be the case.
“I think the price is right for a brand new home,” he said. “I have my fingers crossed and hope they can qualify. That’s the whole idea, to get people off the buses and off the roads. They’ll be able to commute 10-15 minutes versus an hour or two.”’
The county already has lists of applicants who have been vetted, and who now must go through the cumbersome mortgage application process. The county is likely to start with four to eight houses, or up to 10, to take advantage of economies of scale, Arnett said.
The first priority group of applicants works at the nearby Mariott or Hilton, he said. The next group works at the Fairmont, Mauna Kea or Mauna Loa resorts. The final priority group works somewhere else.
An Aug. 31 Intermediate Court of Appeals ruling paved the way for sales to begin when the court upheld a 3rd Circuit Court ruling that Hawaii County can continue developing its housing without a cloud on the title regarding ongoing litigation. The cloud, known as a lis pendens, was placed on the property by developer UniDev, which is involved in the dispute.
The Waikoloa Workplace Housing Project began in 2005 under former Mayor Harry Kim’s administration. At a dedication of the infrastructure and model homes in November, Mayor Billy Kenoi described how changes were made to make the project more affordable and get it moving.
Also differing from the original concept that offered the homes as leasehold, buyers will have the chance to assume full ownership of the home and land after 15 years, Kenoi said. If sold before 15 years, any windfall profit must be shared with the county, he said. The 15-year requirement is a means to discourage speculation and keep the homes affordable.
Hawaii County attorneys sued UniDev in 2009, alleging fraud, intentional misrepresentations and negligence in UniDev ’s inability to proceed with the project. Hawaii County is seeking an unspecified amount of damages. UniDev is seeking $7.2 million in restitution and damages for breach of contract, intentional interference with contract and fraudulent transfer.