New Plantation-Style Village for Homeless Families One Step Closer to Reality
Kahauiki Village brings community together to provide affordable housing for Hawaiʻi
Photos: Colby Lawton
Two 600-square-foot model homes stand testament to the coordinated efforts of a new public-private partnership committed to building a plantation-style village near Keʻehi Lagoon for homeless families.
“We put together a dream team,” says Gary Nakata, Honolulu’s city director of community services as he points to an array of Hawaiʻi’s powerhouse business leaders and public officials who have shown up to the Thursday-morning press conference. “This is the dream team that brought home the gold.”
The gold Nakata refers to is the beginning of a working, self-supporting community of 200 families called Kahauiki Village.
The public-private project takes advantage of Gov. David Ige’s emergency proclamation last October addressing homelessness, “to provide not just temporary housing but affordable homes for families,” says Scott Morishige, the governor’s coordinator on homelessness. It’s hoped that by next year, Kahauiki Village will provide 200 families with homes for an estimated $500 a month rent. The units are not intended as transitional homes, but a new model of affordable permanent housing for the bottom 30 percent. The land is leased by the City and County of Honolulu at $1 a year for 10 years.
Kahauiki Village is the brainchild of local businessman Duane Kurisu, who grew up in the plantation town of Hakalau on Big Island*. Kurisu discusses the sharing economy of plantation life, in which “you get ten heads of lettuce and share five with your neighbors.”
The village designs are slated to incorporate a gardening area with fruit-bearing trees—including breadfruit and banana trees—in an effort to revive the kind of self-supporting community that defined plantation life. There’s even talk of finding a way to supply the village with a supply of live tilapia to fish.
“The government cannot relieve the homeless issue by itself,” says Mayor Kirk Caldwell during a tour of the two nearly-finished model homes. “We provided the land and utilities, and everyone else provided the rest.”
The homes will be built by private businesses Sueda & Associates, RMY Construction, Coastal Construction as well as Komatsu Japan, a company that provided thousands of displaced Japanese with homes after the 2011 Tōhoku tsunami. The original plans were all in Japanese and used the metric system, says Caldwell with a chuckle. The Hawaiʻi units will be made from materials recycled from the Japanese disaster-relief homes and remodeled to have a more plantation feel.
The eventual residents of Kahauiki Village will be selected by social service providers around the state targeting families with children. “We worked with all major social service providers in Hawaiʻi,” says Kurisu. “They are going to be the filters.”
Vicky Cayetano, former first lady of Hawaiʻi and the founder of nearby United Laundry Services, has made a commitment to employ as many adults living in the village as possible, according to the mayor’s office. “Location is critical,” says Kurisu, citing a source of employment as the center of plantation culture.
A move-in date has not been set yet, and is dependent on building infrastructure neccesary to provide utilities—including sewer, water and electricity—though the project is expected to be finished by some time next year.
*In addition to his real-estate holdings, Duane Kurisu owns Pacific Basin Communications, which includes HONOLULU Magazine.