Tuesday, June 12, 2001

Coolidge Apartments resident Hilda Aoki, 90,
photographed in March next to the pills that
she has to take daily, said that if she has to
move, "I don't know where to go."

Retirees at Coolidge
Apartments say lease
rents may force them out

By Gary T. Kubota

Uncertainty over rental increases at Coolidge Apartments by landowner Kamehameha Schools has forced 85-year-old retiree Robert Akutagawa and 82-year-old wife Doris to look for a new home.

Akutagawa bought his unit in 1968 for $25,000 and wanted to live out his life there. He pays $562 in rent per month, but that could change in two years.

"You don't know what the rent is going to be," he said. "We don't think that's right."

Akutagawa said a couple of residents have left since Kamehameha Schools began taking over control of the building and raised the rents by more than 600 percent.

Kamehameha Schools is taking over ownership of the 20-unit, two-story building in Honolulu to satisfy back lease rents plus interest totaling $1.7 million.

Apartment owners, several who live there and are more than 60 years old, were paying lease rents of $76 a month until 1991, when the amounts were increased and many of them fell behind in their payments.

Under an agreement for the next two years, the rents now range from $522 to $650, including electricity, water and maintenance fees.

Kamehameha Schools is assessing the buildings and grounds and preparing to close the transfer of the building's ownership late this summer, said its spokesman Kekoa Paulsen.

Paulsen said Kamehameha Schools understands the difficulties faced by some residents, and the rents were set at close to $522 for those who were having financial problems and living on fixed incomes.

He said at this point, Kamehameha Schools cannot determine what the rents will be in two years but wants to work with the residents.

"It's too early to say what will happen after two years," he said.

Akutagawa and a number of other residents worry their payments will go higher.

"We're just getting by," he said.

"They say two years. They don't tell us how long they are going to be keeping that rate."

Coolidge Apartments was built in 1957 on 17,693 square feet of land leased from Bishop Estate, now known as Kamehameha Schools.

Eight of the 20 units were owner-occupied in April, before the transition in ownership.

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