I meant to report on this story when it first came out several months ago, somehow, I didn’t…I can’t help thinking that Kawamoto is taking a lot of enjoyment in making his Kahala neighbors cringe, interestingly, it seems that his upscale neighbors began to complain about his properties not being maintained properly and hurting their property values back in 2003….well, this will teach them. In the 80’s and 90’s it was Kawamoto that turned Kahala into THE elite neighborhood, now he is turning it into something else. There is an element of creepiness in this as he manipulates people’s lives because he wants more of an authentic Hawaiian feel to his neighborhood, but maybe I am the only one to feel that, and besides, if he offered me one, I would sure as hell move in….
Three families on Thursday received keys to their new Kahala Avenue homes from Japanese real estate billionaire Genshiro Kawamoto.
They included one low-income, Native Hawaiian family who had been living at a Kalaeloa homeless shelter.
At 8:30 a.m., the new Kahala family pulled up for their first look at their new home.
Kawamoto greeted Dorie-Ann Kahale and her five daughters, ages 6 to 20, and showed them the place, while the media followed them around.
“I’m shocked. I’m overwhelmed. From the little box we had to what we had today, it’s awesome,” Kahale said.
The little box was the Onelau`eha homeless shelter at Kalaeloa.
Kahale said her family was living there last November when she wrote Kawamoto a letter.
“I went from $800 rent to $1,200 in a year, and I put myself on the beach because I could no longer afford the rent, the utilities, my car payments, insurance,” she said in her letter.
Kawamoto gave her the key to her family’s new home, along with $1,000 in cash for household items.
Kahale has a full-time job and was ready to pay the $150-a-month rent. However, Kawamoto had another surprise for Kahale and the other families. He decided not to charge any rent.
Kawamoto said the renters will be responsible for paying as much of the utilities as they can.
Kahale said she wants it known that she intends to be a good neighbor.
“I will appreciate everything that I have received. I will be in the yard with my five daughters also, cleaning the yard personally and not hiring anyone to do it for us,” Kahale said.
Nearby, Lyn Worley’s family inspected its new home. She is a clerk at a public elementary school in Ewa Beach. She said her family was living on a month-to-month lease in a home in Waianae and faced a deadline to move out.
“We prayed so hard and cried so much for god to drop something from the heavens and he did. He really, really did,” Worley said.
Worley’s friend wrote a letter on her behalf to Kawamoto.
“I couldn’t in a million years write, ‘I’m needy, I’m destitute,'” she said.
The divorced mom has five children ranging in age from 4 to 21. Three of them are at Kamehameha Schools, including Tesia, 14, who is also Miss Teen Hawaii.
“We never would have thought that we’d ever get this, and he just came along. God sent him and it’s just a big blessing,” Tesia Worley said.
Down the street, Leeann Gusman and Randy Key and their six children checked out their house. It much bigger than their one-bedroom cottage at the Maililand Homeless Shelter where they have lived for the last year and a half.
Gusman is a teller at Territorial Savings. The couple has never married. At one time they lived in a van in Pauoa. They thanked Kawamoto.
“Nobody ever dreams to actually have a big place like this, and this is a beginning for our children as well as for us — a new beginning,” Gusman said.
Kawamoto is allowing the families to live in the homes for two years, after which he will review their cases. If they have been good tenants, he said he will allow them to live there up to 10 years, or until their youngest child graduates from high school.
Not Everyone Is Happy About New Tenants
At least one Kahala-area neighbor lashed out at Kawamoto, blaming him for contributing to the homeless problem.
Kawamoto first made headlines in the 1980s when he bought dozens of homes and condos on Oahu, a move that drove up prices.
Mark Blackburn claims that put the dream of owning a home out of reach for most Hawaii residents.
“He speculated on Hawaiian real estate and started this out-of-control spiral. Right? So every person that owns property in Hawaii is paying more because of this person,” Blackburn said.
Blackburn was also critical of how Kawamoto fails to keep up the appearance of his properties.
For his part, Kawamoto said he has not heard anything from the neighbors.