BY JIM DOOLEY – After investigating conditions at a troubled affordable housing project on Maui, the state has terminated a private company’s $1.75 million contract to manage the project.
Karen Seddon, executive director of the state agency that owns Honokowai Kauhale, was unavailable for comment on the contract cancellation. But Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s press secretary, Donalyn Dela Cruz, said the property management firm, Realty Laua LLC, “was informed on Monday that the contract was terminated immediately.”
Honokowai Kauhale property manager Lisa Faleafine, whose family owns Realty Laua, was told that she and her family members must move out of the manager’s apartment by Friday, according to residents at the project.
“There’s new people in the office. They took all the keys from Lisa yesterday and today they’re going though all the files,” said one long-time resident.
Realty Laua did not return a telephone request for comment.
The telephone at Realty Laua’s office at Honokowai Kauhale was not in service Tuesday.
The company received a three-year, $1.75 million contract last year to manage Honokowai Kauhale. The firm or its corporate predecessor had performed the same work since at least 2000. Last year’s new contract was originally awarded to a competing firm but that decision was overturned after Realty Laua formally protested the contract award.
Dela Cruz said a representative from an interim management company, Hawaii Affordable Properties, was on site at Honokowai Kauhale Tuesday.
Two officials from Seddon’s agency, the Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corp., will be present at Honokowai Kauhale Wednesday “to survey the transition,” said Dela Cruz.
Maui legislator Angus McKelvey, who last month called for cancellation of Realty Laua’s contract, confirmed Tuesday that the company had been terminated but declined further comment.
Problems at the 184-unit complex in the Kaanapali area of West Maui were first revealed by Hawaii Reporter in August.
Glenn Ishikawa, the former project maintenance supervisor who was fired by Faleafine in June, said that nearly 40 per cent of the units at the project had been vacant for months. Some had been unoccupied for as long as five years.
Some residents reported that they felt intimidated by Faleafine and her live-in boyfriend, Iokepa Auwae, a convicted felon on parole for offenses including kidnaping and conspiracy to commit murder.
Other residents later wrote glowing letters of support for Faleafine and Auwae.
Before taking the Maui job, Faleafine was property manager at a state-owned low-income housing complex on the Big Island that was plagued by complaints from residents about squalid living conditions and insensitive management.
Following a series of investigative news reports about problems at Honokowai Kauhale, Seddon ordered a “compliance audit” of the project.
That report was completed weeks ago but Seddon has refused to disclose its contents.
To cure the vacancy problem at the project, Seddon ordered that rental prices for unoccupied apartments be lowered. She followed that order by approving slight increases in rents for units that had been continuously occupied since 2008.