Friday, March 23, 2007

I Feel Dirty After The Last Post--Here Is The Story Of The Billionaire Giving HIs Multi-Million Dollar Homes To The Homeless

Billionaire opens mansions to homeless

By AUDREY McAVOY, Associated Press WriterFri Mar 23, 7:32 AM ET

Dorie-Ann Kahale and her five daughters moved from a homeless shelter to a mansion Thursday, courtesy of a Japanese real estate mogul who is handing over eight of his multimillion-dollar homes to low-income Native Hawaiian families.

Tears spilled down Kahale's cheeks as she accepted from billionaire Genshiro Kawamoto the key to a white, columned house with a circular driveway, a stone staircase and a deep porcelain bathtub. Her family will live there rent-free, but must pay utility bills. "I'm shocked. I'm overwhelmed," Kahale said. "From the little box we had to what we have today."

Kawamoto, whose own eyes started welling up as Kahale cried, handed over two other homes Thursday to homeless or low-income families.

Kawamoto, one of Japan's richest men, said he plans to open eight of his 22 Kahala homes to needy Hawaiian families. They will be able to stay in the homes for up to 10 years, he said. He also gave each family 10 $100 bills to help them move in.

Native Hawaiians are disproportionately represented among the state's homeless and working poor.

Kawamoto owns dozens of office buildings in Tokyo under the name Marugen and his been buying and selling real estate in Hawaii and California since the 1980s.

He has been criticized for evicting tenants of his rental homes on short notice so he could sell the properties, as in 2002 when he gave hundreds of California tenants 30 days to leave.

Two years later, he served eviction notices to tenants in 27 Oahu rental homes, mostly in pricey Hawaii Kai, saying they had to leave within a month. He said he wanted to sell the houses to take advantage of rising prices.

Kawamoto selected the eight low-income families from 3,000 people who wrote him letters last fall after he announced his plan. He has said he tried to pick working, single mothers.

Giving away mansions shows more dedication to helping Hawaii's homeless than just handing out wads of cash, he said. Asked whether he was concerned about losing money on the effort, he laughed and said: "This is pocket money for me."

Kahale's new house is worth nearly $5 million, an average price for the mansion-like dwellings on Kahala Avenue. It is one of the more modest homes in the neighborhood, many of which feature ornate iron gates, meandering driveways and sculptured gardens.
Kahale became homeless two years ago when her landlord raised her rent from $800 to $1,200, putting the apartment beyond reach of her salary as customer service representative for Pacific LightNet, a telecommunications company. She first stayed with relatives, then moved to a shelter in September.

"What we need to do is appreciate," Kahale said after getting the keys to her new house. "As fast as we got it, it could disappear."

Some neighbors are unhappy with Kawamoto's plan, speculating that he is trying to drive down real estate values so he can snap up even more homes.

"Everyone's paying homage to him, but in reality, he's the problem," said Mark Blackburn, who lives down the street from Kahale's new home. "Houses are homes. They're made to live in; they aren't investment vehicles."

He suggested that the Waianae Coast, a heavily Hawaiian community on the other side of Oahu that has been hit hard by homelessness, would have been a better place for Kawamoto to carry out his charity work.

Kawamoto countered that those in the Kahala neighborhood who don't want Hawaiians next door might want to leave the islands altogether.

"The people who don't want to live near Hawaiians should move," Kawamoto said.
Lyn Worley, 40, who got the key to another Kawamoto house, said she believes her neighbors will grow to love her family.

The elementary school clerk has been living in a house in Waianae with her five children and brother for the past four years. Their lease ran out — and then Kawamoto's offer came along.
"We prayed so hard and cried so much for God to drop something from the skies, and he did," Worley said. "And he did, he really, really did."

Copyright © 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. The information contained in the AP News report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press.


Anonymous said...

the utility bills alone will leave those poor families out in the cold again. sad in my book.

Anonymous said...

why make a spectacle of it all if you're just being charitable? seems a little dubious especially reading about his past history of evictions.

Anonymous said...

The first two comments are silly. Spectacle and utility bills or not, do either of you honestly believe that any of those people would rather be homeless than live in a mansion? They had a choice and they took the homes, case closed. May God bless the man altruistic soul who changed their lives.

Anonymous said...

He is not giving away his investment properties, he is just letting homeless people move into them for a short period of time. He has plans. I am sure he is just allowing the poor to move in, so that way the value of the homes will become less. He want's to buy up more investment properties. If he actually handed the homeless the deeds I would say, "Perhaps he is sincere." However, these individuals are just there for a period of time. Notice he chose women with many children. I worked in very wealthy neighborhoods for years. Do you honestly think the kids will associate with the other children in the community? Imagine the poor children going into the homes of the wealthy? If they can even step foot on their doorsteps and make it into another wealthy person's home, I am sure they would be followed all over the house to make sure the kids aren't stealing anything. I have a hard time believing people of two socio-economic backgrounds will blend in smoothly.

These poor people may find it very hard to fit in. I really hope and pray some of the other people in the community will not move. Instead why not pool together a trust fund for the mothers to send them to college. Once educated perhaps they might fit in better. This way who knows? Maybe the properties will not go down in value. If you can get these women into a good college, get them good cars and send their children to charm school perhaps this guys whole plan will backfire! :)

I used to go to charm school. Let's send the kids to charm school, and the mothers to college. This way perhaps they may fit in a little better.

Anonymous said...

As someone who lives on the Waianae Coast (in a condo, I'm not homeless) in Hawaii, I have three things to say.

The first is that by offering his units only to people of Hawaiian descent, he is violating the Fair Housing Act.

The second is that of the 4000 Homeless living on the Waianae Coast, most are not Hawaiian, they are Samoan. They consider themselves to be, and call themselves "local" people, but this does not make them Hawaiian.

The third and final issue is that people who live here know that this man is a slum lord. He routinely lets his rental properties fall into disrepair, which hurts the value of other properties in the neighborhood so he can buy them. In the neighborhood in question alone, Kahala, he already owns 22 properties. By putting homeless people in 8 of them, he is hoping to drive down the value of the other homes in Kahala, so he can steal up even more of them for himself and make a nice long term profit.

This is not an act of charity, it is a hostel takeover.

Anonymous said...

By the way, to anyone who doubts that this is his motive please consider the following.

Putting homeless people in mansions is a pointless overkill. 8 homes at 5 million apiece gives just 8 family's a home for a cost of 40 million dollars.

If your goal is to get homeless people off the street and give them a place to live, wouldn't it make more sense to buy a building with that 40 million dollars? Then you would be providing a home for 100 - 200 family's, rather than just 8.

Lest use some common sense people.


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