Building affordable homes for Hawai’i’s people

Posted on Apr 29, 2016 in Main

Kakaako2Whether it’s a studio rental or a three-bedroom home, what can be done to increase Hawai‘i housing for all income levels?  The answer, says Governor Ige, is to work with the private sector on policy changes and financing tools that make sense for both the builders of affordable units and the people who need them.

“This governor has said we need to expedite the projects already in the pipeline,” said Craig Hirai, executive director of the Hawai‘i Housing Finance and Development Corporation, which focuses on financing and developing affordable housing. “In the past, the focus was not on affordable housing for working families. It was either at the very low or very high end. Now we’re working hard to ramp up as many low- and moderate-income units as possible.”

Between now and 2017, more than 1,800 housing units are projected  for completion — a great majority of which will be low-income rentals. These would be available to residents whose incomes are at or below 60 percent of the area median income (AMI). On O‘ahu, that would mean earning less than $40,260 for individuals or no more than $57,480 for a family of four.

For example, residents will soon be moving into East Kapolei’s Ko‘oloa‘ula (see photo at right), one of the largest affordable rental complexes in the state. Located a block from the Kroc Center and the first Honolulu Rail Transit station, the development will serve households with incomes below 60 percent of Honolulu’s median income. The rent for a one-bedroom apartment would be $885 a month; a two-bedroom unit’s rent would be $1,020 a month.

One developer who is doing both market-rate for sale and workforce rentals is     Stanford Carr. He’s part of a group that has been advising the Ige administration on how to make affordable housing units more feasible to build for rental or sale at affordable prices. Carr explained, “We’re from this community and we want to help local residents: the teachers, the state and county workers, the single parents, and the young professionals just getting started. This governor has listened, responded and taken action to provide more tools and means of financing to create more housing.”

Long-time housing advocate, the Rev. Bob Nakata, agrees. “This administration has a good, comprehensive approach,” he said. “These projects take time. That’s why we need to invest in them now.”

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Photo:  Breaking ground at Keauhou Lane

Read more in our May issue.