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Tenants facing eviction hope state will convert Kauaʻi’s Waipouli apartments to affordable housing

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Activists want the State of Hawai‘i to prioritize the purchase of Waipouli apartments for affordable housing. (Photo Courtesy: Michael Daly)

Lifelong Kaua‘i resident Ervin Contrades suffered a stroke on Jan. 27, 2019, the day after the bank foreclosed on his house. But he continued to work at his 23-year job at a local helicopter company to support his disabled father and blind brother.

Just a few weeks later, the COVID-19 pandemic began and Contrades was among the first to be let go in a wave of lay-offs.

Then, Contrades’ dad died on Fathers Day 2021. Contrades, 71 and disabled himself, now serves as his brother’s 24/7 caregiver.

Despite these hardships, Contrades has managed to keep his family housed in the Courtyards at Waipouli apartments on the East Side of the Garden Isle, between Wailuā and Kapa‘a. But they soon may be displaced. Contrades can no longer afford the rent, which is $2,400 a month.

“We’re at the end of the road. Two weeks ago, the sheriffs were notified to come over here and take possession,” Contrades said. “The day I heard that, I started moving stuff into storage … We still have some things left: the beds, the TVs and some of the stuff in the kitchen. We’re surviving like sitting ducks. They could come and bang on the door any day.”

Kaua‘i native Ervin Contrades (center) faces eviction from his home in the Courtyards at Waipouli. (Scott Yunker/Kaua‘i Now)

However, there is hope. The Courtyards at Waipouli is for sale. Affordable housing advocates are pressuring the State of Hawai‘i to purchase the apartment building and transform all 82 units into affordable housing. If the deal goes through, Contrades and his brother will be able to stay put.

The Courtyards apartments were constructed by owner KD Waipouli in 2009, under the Kaua‘i Lagoons Affordable Housing Agreement. That means the building was subject to a 10-year affordability restriction for 41 units (50%).

When the affordability restriction expired in 2019, the units were no longer restricted from market sale or rent.

Over the past four years, rents at the Courtyards have increased 55%, and almost all of the original local residents have moved out or become houseless, according to advocacy group Hawaiʻi Appleseed Center for Law & Economic Justice.

Affordable housing developer Doug Bidley has submitted an application to the Hawai‘i Housing Finance & Development Corporation for the state to invest in the Courtyards and secure all 82 units as affordable for 60 years through the use of federal and state low-income housing tax credits.


Bigley is requesting $43 million from the state to purchase the Courtyards and convert all the units into affordable housing, which includes making them ADA compliant. That’s $525,000 per unit. He also will manage the property.

“It’s already built. We don’t have to wait. It’s ready for $525,000 a unit. That’s a good deal,” Kaua‘i community organizer and housing researcher Kenna StormoGipson said. “I don’t think you can get much on the open market right now in the way of $525,000 a unit. And you definitely cannot get that with a 60-year affordability period.”

Kenna StormoGipson (center) and Fern Holland of the Hawaiʻi Alliance for Progressive Action (right) wave signs along Kūhiō Highway. (Scott Yunker/Kaua‘i Now)

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.

The state Hawai‘i Housing Finance & Development Corporation will decide whether to invest in the property – or not – in July or August, according to StormoGipson.

“There’s 20-something projects [for the agency to choose from], but only half of them will be invested in this year,” StormoGipson said. “We’re saying the need [for affordable housing] is so great right here on Kaua‘i right now, and we have so many people in the same situation, that this really should be at the top of the list.”


Rents would be set at $1,600 for a two-bedroom unit and $1,900 for a three-bedroom unit.

Contrades and StormoGipson were among more than 20 affordable housing advocates who held a press conference near the Courtyards last Friday. Several participants were themselves houseless or have loved ones who are.

Kaua‘i County Councilmembers Addison Bulosan, Felicia Cowden and Council Chair Mel Rapozo also were in attendance, either in-person or via Zoom.

“I thank all of you for doing this,” Cowden told the advocates, who waved signs along Kūhiō Highway. “Because it helps those who have houses get to understand that people who are being pushed out, have been high contributors and have had beautiful lives and robust lives.”

Scott Yunker
Scott Yunker is a journalist living on Kauaʻi. His work for community newspapers has earned him awards and inclusion in the 2020 anthology "Corona City: Voices from an Epicenter."
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