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Homeless family gets key to Japanese man's mansion in Hawaii

March 23, 2007|From the Associated Press

HONOLULU — 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 planned 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.

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

He has been criticized in the past 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.

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.

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