Updated: September 28, 2022
Katherine Kamaunu, 71, has lived at Lahaina Crossroads Apartments for more than 35 years.
Now, she and her husband, Aaron Kamaunu, 60, are being forced out of the complex, along with nearly 20 other families — a handful of whom are kūpuna on fixed incomes.
“To have my life ripped out from under me is not what I planned,” she said.
The Kamaunus and other tenants said Lahaina Crossroads Apartments ownership is kicking them out to renovate — then charge nearly double the rent. After all, units are located a couple blocks mauka of Front Street and outsiders are paying outrageous prices to live in Hawaiʻi, they said.
The 767 Luakini St. complex is owned by 1515 South King LLC, according to county property tax records, and managed by Kokua Realty LLC, which sent a letter to the Kamaunus, saying they have until June 30 to vacate.
Rent will go from about $1,220 to $2,200 for a one bedroom in the 20-unit apartment building, which has some two-bedroom units, tenants said. The Kamaunus live on the fourth story, and phased renovations will force people out floor by floor.
With low housing inventory on the west side, retirees, nurses, teachers, service industry workers and others at Lahaina Crossroads are left scrambling for places.
Freeman Tam Lung, 79, said he’s been living at Lahaina Crossroads for nearly 20 years and he doesn’t know what he will do next.
“I gotta go homeless then,” said Tam Lung.
He said he could try and move to Kentucky where his son lives, but he wants to stay in Lahaina, where he is from.
“I was born here — I want to be buried here,” said Tam Lung, a Native Hawaiian.
Another tenant, Steven K. Scott, 68, who has lived in the complex for 14 years, said Maui’s housing crisis is displacing elderly people.
“Being evicted so they can renovate it and then move it to $2,200, $2,250 — we can’t afford that, we just can’t afford that,” he said.
Aaron Kamaunu, who served in the US military and in Maui Police Department, is now working as a caretaker to make ends meet. He broke his shoulder recently, so his wife helps him at various jobs.
He said he feels pushed out of Maui and asked why local politicians haven’t done more to address the housing crisis on an island with limited resources.
“It’s crazy — there’s nothing I can do,” he said. “This is what Hawaiʻi is. It’s all about tourism. Yeah, I’m pissed, I’m sad, I’m frustrated – but that’s business.”
His wife, Katherine Kamaunu, said she’s been crying all the time.
“My husband is Hawaiian for Christ’s sake, and he can’t even live on this island,” she said. “People are greedy, money hungry.”
On Friday, Stan Franco, president of Stand Up Maui, a nonprofit that advocates for affordable housing, said the Lahaina Crossroads Apartments situation is “very distressing.”
“Everybody is talking about creating affordable housing, and here is a real situation: What can we do to save this? What can we do so local people can stay in their homes?” he asked.
“We cannot take inventory out and not add any inventory. It doesn’t make sense. It’s just compounding the problem for local residents,” Franco added. “To me, it’s just crazy.”
A report from the University of Hawaiʻi Economic Research Organization released last month said that rent prices spiked over the first few months this year, with Maui seeing a 41% surge in asking prices compared with the same time last year.
In March 2021, the median-priced Craigslist posting for a rental unit on Maui was $1,850, while in March 2022 it had risen to $2,600, according to rental postings on Craigslist, which may not be representative of the overall market, UHERO said.
Thaddeus Marckesano, Kokua Realty residential property manager for Lahaina Crossroads Apartments, did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Ownership 1515 South King LLC’s manager CRC Ventures II LLC also did not respond to a request for comment.