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True injustice was to families who were to be Kahoma Village owners

VIEWPOINT

The lost opportunity at Kahoma Village devasted many in our community. An unfounded attack against the project in 2014 cost West Maui families the opportunity to purchase a home they qualified for in the new workforce housing development in Lahaina.

While we are sincerely happy for the 200-plus families now able to live where they work in West Maui as owners in Kahoma Village, it is truly heartbreaking that over half of the workforce families in contract in March 2020 were forced to forfeit their unit when they could no longer substantiate income for a mortgage loan following pandemic-related layoffs.

This unfortunate situation would have been avoided entirely had some residents not elevated their dispute against Kahoma’s special management area permit to the Intermediate Court of Appeals. Because the case delayed construction by one year, families who would otherwise have completed the process in 2019 had closings moved to 2020. In no uncertain terms, those who were forced to cancel their contracts because they lost their jobs to the COVID-19 pandemic were put in that position by the legal challenges brought against the project by the Protect and Preserve Kahoma Ahupua’a Association and other residents.

A March 2 letter submitted to The Maui News claims Kahoma Village resulted in irreparable damage to historical land.

In truth, the greatest damage, the irreparable harm, was wrought by those who upended the dream of homeownership for 50-plus West Maui families.

From its announcement in November 2012, and with the full support of the West Maui Taxpayers Association and Lahaina-Honolua Senior Citizens Club, who represent a broad array of stakeholders, homeowners and residents in West Maui, Kahoma Village offered West Maui residents a precious opportunity: the first primary affordable housing community to be built in West Maui in 40 years.

The former sugar cane land owned by The Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Foundation sat unutilized for 50 years until Stanford Carr Development’s SCD Kahoma Village LLC purchased the 21.6-acre property in 2016. It was the last undeveloped parcel along Front Street, a location with no evidence of traditional precontact activity, according to the archaeological monitoring report submitted to the State Historic Preservation Division.

With precious little housing inventory in West Maui, in addition to relief from housing scarcity, individuals working on the west side would also find relief from the struggle of the daily commute from Central Maui.

As The Maui News covered in February 2018, ownership at Kahoma Village represented a “dream come true” for working Maui families. Seventy-five families were selected in the initial lottery for the single-family home and townhomes, with new applicants vying for opportunity every day.

The majority of those families worked in the service and hospitality industry, the engine that moves the West Maui economy. For them, Kahoma Village was not only the opportunity to own a home where they worked, but to own a part of the economy they worked to create.

For five years, the case sat before the Intermediate Court of Appeals. That case is now set to appear before the Hawaii Supreme Court today. While it is a travesty that the ICA was unable to render a decision on a much-needed affordable housing project for five years, the ultimate tragedy is what this dispute cost the 50-plus Maui families who lost their opportunity to purchase a home in Lahaina. When Maui was told to “stay home,” those families were irreparably damaged without one.

Let’s be clear about who this legal dispute has harmed the most. They are West Maui families who:

• Did not own any other real estate.

• Intended to be owner-occupants.

• Had an income range of 80 to 140 percent of the area median income.

• Largely were members of the service industry.

In late March 2020, when the world stopped turning, more than half of Kahoma Village’s workforce buyers were forced to withdraw their plans for homeownership. While every applicant was returned their deposit, what can never be returned is the opportunity lost for them and their families. Therein lies the true injustice.

* Stanford S. Carr is CEO of Stanford Carr Development.

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