Kawamoto picks first family for rental
The Japanese real estate tycoon is moving ahead with plans for cheap rentals on Kahala Avenue
Japanese billionaire Gensiro Kawamoto is pushing ahead with plans to rent Kahala homes to native Hawaiian families, and says he already has selected his first tenants.
Kawamoto said in an interview yesterday he has set aside four of his Kahala Avenue homes for rentals at $150 per month. All are on the mauka side of the street, at 4337, 4398, 4578 and 4744 Kahala Ave.
Gensiro Kawamoto is accepting housing inquiries at P.O. Box 15547, Honolulu, HI 96830
Kawamoto said he will select the families to rent his Kahala homes, nine out of 21 in all, by himself. There will be no property manager, and he will interview the families by going to their current homes, he said.
He's fielding inquiries from potential tenants via mail, which he checks weekly, and word of mouth.
"I expect these families will invite guests over, between 30 to 40 people," he told the Star-Bulletin. "I'm going to choose families with lots of friends. They're going to be like my family."
Kawamoto says the families must be hardworking, nice people that have fallen on hard times. He said he's not checking genealogy or requiring a percentage quantum of native Hawaiian blood.
Kawamoto said he has selected a family of six for one of the homes, though he declined to disclose their names or more information without their permission.
Kawamoto's initial announcement in October that he was offering Kahala homes for rent between $150 to $200 a month provoked a mixed reaction from the community. Many said the Japanese tycoon was just seeking publicity, and questioned whether he was serious.
Some raised legal issues, while others accused Kawamoto of a scheme to lower housing values so he could acquire more properties.
But dozens of others wrote him letters -- from single mothers to nonprofit groups to the purported minister of the interior of the Hawaiian Kingdom -- hoping to reach him about the rentals.
The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits advertising or making any statement indicating a limit or preference based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status or handicap.
In addition, there are landlord-tenant codes, deed restrictions, and covenants that pertain specifically to the neighborhood by the Kahala Community Association.
But Kawamoto, in town this week to oversee his project that he has dubbed his "Kahala Avenue Mission," said he's confident in his plan.
"Yes, I'm aware of the law," he said, when asked about the legality of his plan.
He said he was investing about $500,000 into fixing up the four homes so they would be suitable for a family, by removing a swimming pool to create more space, and knocking down concrete walls to let in the breezes.
No sales contracts for any of the homes have been signed yet. Kawamoto said he plans to reveal in January the five other Kahala homes that he plans to rent out.
At Christmastime next year, he says he envisions a row of the homes all lit up with lights.
"Kahala Avenue will be prepared so that you can enjoy good old Hawaii," Kawamoto said in a prepared statement. "Kahala Avenue will be full of tropical flowers with Polynesian flair. ... Viva Hawaii, viva Hawaiian, viva Kahala Avenue!"
Kawamoto said he has no intention to work with the Office of Hawaiian Affairs or the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands. Working with government agencies isn't his style.
He blames city bureaucracy for stopping him from past middle-class development attempts, including a high-rise in Kakaako and a 900-home subdivision on Maui.
Kawamoto, 74, is president of Marugen Building Co., one of the largest real estate empires in Japan.