BY JIM DOOLEY – Rents at a Maui affordable housing project must be lowered and dozens of units that have been vacant for months and years must be occupied within 30 days, according to state Rep. Angus McKelvey.
McKelvey, D-10th (Lahaina, Kaanapali, Kapalua, Maalaea, Kihei), said the changes at Honokowai Kauhale are being instituted in the wake of a series of investigative reports published by Hawaii Reporter about conditions at the 184-unit project.
The Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corp., which owns the project, has begun a “compliance investigation” of Realty Laua, the private company which manages Honokowai Kauhale for the state, McKelvey said.
McKelvey said he and state Sen. Roz Baker, D-5th (West Maui) “are pushing for a speedy resolution” of problems at the facility.
“We want the (management) contract to be declared null and void but the investigation has to be completed first,” he said.
Baker did not respond to requests for comment.
Residents at the West Maui project said they were told that vacant units must rented within 3 months instead of the 30-day deadline cited by McKelvey.
Kent Miyasaki, spokesman for the HHFDC, did not immediately respond to questions about the changes being instituted at Honokowai Kauhale or the deadlines for compliance.
Nearly 40 per cent of the apartments at Honokowai Kauhale have been unoccupied for extended periods of time, including two that have been vacant for more than five years.
A former maintenance supervisor at the project, Glenn Ishikawa, said 71 units were vacant because the state and property manager Lisa Faleafine were slow to make necessary repairs to some units and slow to process new rental applications.
Faleafine and Realty Laua have not responded to requests for comment on Honokowai Kauhale.
Faleafine’s family owns Realty Laua, which holds several contracts to manage state-owned public housing projects around the state.
As reported earlier, Faleafine previously managed another state project in Kona on the Big Island until residents, community groups and even Big Island prosecutors complained to state officals about mismanagement and substandard living conditions there.
Faleafine then was transferred by her company to the Maui affordable housing project.