Japanese billionaire unpopular in Kahala
Genshiro Kawamoto is a man some Kahala residents would rather forget. The 76 year-old man currently owns 22 homes in Kahala, with 20 of them on prestigious Kahala Avenue. The gripe from Kahala residents is that Mr. Kawamoto is letting his homes fall apart.
A little history about Mr. Kawamoto
Remember the Japanese bubble? It started about 20 years ago here in Hawaii. Affluent Japanese businessmen started buying up luxury homes in Kahala and other areas. There were instances where homeowners heard a knock on the door, answered and were offered large sums of money for their homes. The offers were lucrative and the owners often sold.
Mr. Kawamoto was one of those Hawaii investors. By 1998 Mr. Kawamoto owned over 100 homes in the better neighborhoods of Oahu. His investment peaked at somewhere around 250 homes. Not all of the homes were luxurious, many were basic run of the mill properties.
Hawaii residents started pointing fingers at Mr. Kawamoto in particular in the late 1980's when home prices were accelerating and becoming less affordable. Eventually he started selling off the homes. His motive was probably in part to take the heat off and also to liquidate assets and get cash for other investments. He had rented out his investment properties and didn't spend money maintaining them. The homes started getting run down.
When Mr. Kawamoto listed his homes a mini-bonanza set in. The properties were reasonably priced fixer uppers, perfect for people looking to move in a good neighborhood on a budget. One of my friends bought a Kawamoto home for a good price. He and his wife fixed it up, lived there awhile and then sold it at a profit, earning cash to move up to a nicer home.
In 2007, Mr. Kawamoto offered to rent three of his Kahala homes to native Hawaiian families at low rates ($150- $200 per month). To the familes' surprise, on the day that they moved in, Mr. Kawamoto said he would not charge them rent at all.
Some people were upset that Mr. Kawamoto was discriminating in favor of native Hawaiians and filed a complaint with HUD. HUD eventually ruled that the complaint didn't have merit since Mr. Kawamoto was not charging rent. Mr. Kawamoto stated that the situation caused him emotional trauma and he scrapped plans to accomodate several other native Hawaiian families. As of today the three families are still staying in the homes rent free, a year and a half later.
|A happy family resides in this Kahala home rent-free.|
|The family placed this banner in the front yard when they moved in.|
|Across the street, another Kawamoto-owned home could use some work.|
|Note the dried up grass and demolished wall.|
Back to 2008
Mr. Kawamoto's publicity is the result of the Kahala properties' disrepair. Another issue is how Mr. Kawamoto prepared his homes for the native Hawaiian families. Swimming pools were filled in with dirt and walls were torn down. Mr. Kawamoto defended his actions, saying that the filled in pools were for safety reasons and the walls were removed to change the fortress-like character of some homes.
Kahala residents are urging the Honolulu City Council and the State of Hawaii to do something. Apparently the disrepair is mostly cosmetic. Our government is trying to stay out of it.
Lawsuit filed against Kawamoto
A Hawaii resident filed a lawsuit against Mr. Kawamoto for alleged injuries resulting from a fall in front of a Kawamoto home. The woman is said to have tripped and fell over pieces of a broken wall and palm fronds on the sidewalk in front of the home. The complaint alleges physical injuries, emotional distress and lost wages due to Mr. Kawamoto's negligence. The attorney filing the lawsuit lives next door to one of Mr. Kawamoto's properties...
Why is Mr. Kawamoto doing this?
Some people say that he's purposely driving down property values so that he can buy more homes in the area. I don't know, he's in his mid 70's - wouldn't he have better things to do? I think he's busy with other projects and just not making it a priority to take care of his Kahala homes. For a man with his kind of money, buying a home might be compared with buying a cheap used car for us common people.
I have a message for Mr. Kawamoto - If you feel like selling any of your homes, please give me a call. I'll be happy to list your homes and maybe even buy one if the price is right!
Mike Bates (RA)
Coldwell Banker Pacific Properties