Kaua‘i Habitat for Humanity gives keys to new homes for five families
June 25, 2023, 1:00 AM HST
* Updated June 26, 11:00 AM
The Del Contes first applied for housing with Kauaʻi Habitat for Humanity in 2017.
After waiting two years to be accepted — and with themselves, family and friends logging nearly 1,700 hours of sweat equity — the family of four got the keys to their new in ‘Ele‘ele.
“I’m feeling excited and joyful, because we finally have our own home that we always wanted,” said Hope Del Conte, who has two young girls with her husband Joshua. “It’s within our budget, we’ll be able to maintain it and we can even help fix it up because we already know the process.”
The Del Contes were among five Kaua‘i families who cried, smiled and shouted with joy on Friday when Habitat of Humanity personnel welcomed them into their new homes in ‘Ele‘ele and Waimea on the West Side of the Garden Island.
They all celebrated the completion of a 125-home affordable housing development 16 years in the making and during National Home Ownership month.
Two days earlier, the Kauaʻi Habitat for Humanity – established on the Garden Isle 30 years ago – broke ground on a 17-unit development in the East Side district of Waipouli, between Wailuā and Kapa‘a.
In collaboration with fellow nonprofit Permanently Affordable Living Hawai‘i, Kaua‘i Habitat will construct Kauhale O Waipouli, which is slated for completion in mid-2026.
“What makes Habitat, Habitat is our families,” homeowner services manager Shana Cruz said on Friday as the new homeowners got their keys. “These families have backgrounds working at the VA, airlines, as stay-at-home parents, working at the hospital. These are people that service [our community] … It’s a pleasure to have worked with each and every one of these families.”
Parnell and Brayanna Legaspi and Jolynn Largo and Robert Badua are moving into the first two new homes of Kaua‘i Habitat’s Waimea Huakai subdivision, built in conjunction with the Āhē Group. Six more homes will be completed in the subdivision by the end of this summer, and another 24 will be constructed by fall 2025.
Randall “Lumbo” and Ku‘ulei Palau, Melody Pacanas and the Del Contes are moving into the final three homes of the 125-home ʻEleʻele Iluna subdivision. The project began when its 24 acres were purchased in 2007.
Families accepted into the Kaua‘i Habitat program must make 80% or less of the area median income – on Kaua‘i, that’s $102,200, according to Fannie Mae.
Families also are required to spend at least 30 hours per week helping Habitat personnel construct their dwelling.
“It was a sacrifice for everybody,” said Joshua Del Conte, who performs local homelessness outreach for Veteran’s Affairs. “We had to get all our family together, and then we had to get all our friends and some would burn out … But it was a great experience.”
Kaua‘i Habitat has constructed 233 homes to date, placing it among the top 25 highest-producing Habitat affiliates in the nation. But demand for affordable housing has only grown since its work began.
The median sale price for a single-family home on Kaua‘i was more than $1.2 million in 2022, according to a Hawai‘i Realtors year-end report.
In comparison, the Del Contes’ new ‘Ele‘ele home cost $220,000. A four-bedroom home in the Waimea Huakai subdivision costs $320,000, and can be $30,000 less depending on federal grant funding.
Milani Pimental, executive director of Kaua‘i Habitat for Humanity, said the organization’s waiting list has grown exponentially in 10 years.
“In 2010, it used to be about 2,000. It’s doubled now to over 4,000,” Pimental said.
“We are still working hard to make sure we can continue our work affordably to keep our residents here on Kaua‘i and prevent being ‘priced out of paradise,’ like the whole nation heard about through former Hawai‘i resident and American Idol winner Iam Tongi.”
In the past year, Kaua‘i Habitat has purchased a parcel in Kalāheo, which will hold six Condominium Property Regime units. The organization also has purchased a parcel in Kōloa for a possible seven units.
“Our efforts remain focused on completing major land acquisitions in the future to achieve our goal of lining up the next 100 homes and beyond,” Pimental said.