BY JIM DOOLEY – Two Maui legislators are meeting with state officials this week for answers on why a state affordable housing project is 40 per cent empty.
“It’s ridiculous that this has been allowed to happen,” said Rep. Angus McKelvey, D-10th (Lahaina, Kaanapali, Kapalua, Maalaea, Kihei) of the vacancy rate at Honokowai Kauhale on Maui.
McKelvey was reacting to stories in Hawaii Reporter last week which revealed that 71 apartments in the 184-unit project in the Kaanapali area of Maui have been unoccupied for months and years.
He said he and Sen. Roz Baker, D-10th (South and West Maui) are meeting with Karen Seddon, executive director of the Hawaii Housing Finance Development Corp., to discuss Honokowai Kauhale.
“We want to get to the bottom of this and clean up the situation immediately,” McKelvey said.
Baker said by email that she was “disturbed” by news reports about Honokowai Kauhale.
“We expect state housing to be kept up and available for those who need it,” Baker said. “Empty unusable units help no one.”
The state has a $583,000-per-year contract with management company Realty Laua LLC to oversee Honokowai Kauhale.
Property manager Lisa Faleafine, whose family owns Realty Laua, moved to the Maui project in 2003 after managing another state-owned affordable housing project in Kona on the Big Island.
Residents in the Kona project, Ka Hale Kahaluu, complained repeatedly to state officials about squalid living conditions and mismanagement when Faleafine was in charge there.
“There’s a lot of red flags here,” McKelvey said.
He also said he thinks Honokowai Kauhale and eight other affordable housing projects owned by HHFDC should be transferred to the Hawaii Public Housing Authority, which owns and operates the bulk of public housing facilities in the state.
“I think we should get these remnant projects out of HHFDC and over to HPA,” he said.