Developer revises timetable in Kakaako micro-unit housing plan

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By Andrew Gomes | April 13, 2016


Honolulu, HI — A unique effort to develop affordable housing in Honolulu by building a high-rise filled with 104 tiny apartments on a lot that historically would fit one single-family home is going to take significantly longer than previously anticipated, though the project slated for Kakaako took a step forward Tuesday.

The developer of the planned 17-story tower containing 300-square-foot living spaces anticipates starting construction late next year and opening in mid-2019, according to a projected timetable presented to the state agency that solicited competitive proposals to create micro-unit housing, or small efficiency apartments, on a 10,409-square-foot lot at 630 Cooke St.

The timetable revises an initial projection that construction might begin this year, and follows a delay by the developer and the state signing a development agreement that formalized terms proposed by the developer when it was selected for the project in June through competitive bidding.

Bronx Pro Group LLC, a New York affordable-housing development firm leading the project with partners, signed the agreement Tuesday with the Hawaii Community Development Authority.

Samantha Magistro, Bronx Pro’s managing director of development, said her firm is excited to get started on the tower, called Nohona Hale.

“We are so excited to develop in this special place,” she told HCDA board members before they voted 5-0 to approve the agreement with three members absent and one abstaining. “Thank you for the opportunity.”

Magistro, however, also noted that the timetable is subject to a successful effort obtaining a large amount of financing from the state for the $32 million project, which would produce housing for low-income residents.

Bronx Pro plans to apply by June for tax-exempt bonds, low-income housing tax credits and rental housing trust fund money from the Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corp., a state agency that facilitates affordable-housing production.

The developer also plans to seek some financing from the city but hasn’t yet determined a breakdown of dollar amounts.

Other work to be done by the developer includes producing an environmental assessment, conducting an archaeological inventory survey, signing a 65-year ground lease with HCDA and obtaining a development permit from HCDA following two public hearings.

Assisting Bronx Pro with Nohona Hale are EAH Housing, a California-based nonprofit affordable-housing developer active in Hawaii, Construction Management & Development Inc., Swinerton Builders and Seattle architecture firm Sustainable Living Innovations LLC.

HCDA, which owns the site and regulates development in Kakaako, solicited proposals from private developers to create micro-housing on the lot in late 2014 as a strategy to provide many more homes than typically would be built on such a small lot.

The Hawaii Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice said in a 2013 report that micro-units aren’t widely used in Hawaii despite a great need for single-occupant housing.

“Almost 1 out of 4 households is composed of one occupant, a rate more than double what it was in 1950,” the report said. “In light of this, (micro-units) represent significant untapped potential for development of much-needed affordable housing in Hawaii.”

At 300 square feet, Nohona Hale apartments would be smaller than a typical Hawaii hotel room and provide living space for no more than two people per unit. There also will be no parking provided except for eight stalls for guests and staff.

Each unit is intended to be more efficient with space and look bigger than it is given design features that include 40-square-foot balconies, floor-to-ceiling windows, 9-foot ceilings and storage space within walls.

Of the 104 units, 98 would rent for a projected $750 a month and be reserved for residents earning no more than 60 percent of the annual median income in Honolulu, which equates to $40,300 for a single person. Five units would be available for $345 a month to residents earning no more than 30 percent of the median income, or $20,150. One unit would be for a manager.


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