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Affordable Housing Boost

Aloha Halewiliko EAH Housing

Projects from North Shore to town will create nearly 1,000 units to address an urgent need

Honolulu Star-Advertiser

August 03, 2022 – City officials and private developers Tuesday announced six upcoming affordable housing projects designed to create 972 units from the North Shore to town within five years.

The announcement was held on the mauka side of the old Aiea Sugar Mill where 140 studio and one-bedroom units are expected to open within three years for needy senior citizens.

The mill, which closed in 1998, was once an Aiea landmark but has since been torn down and now sits essentially fallow and unused.

The need for more affordable housing on Oahu and around the islands has been a key issue for political candidates up and down the ballot ahead of the Aug. 13 party primaries.

The issue will go directly before Oahu voters in the Nov. 8 general election in the form of a charter amendment that would double the city’s affordable housing fund to $15 million to $16 million from roughly $7 million to $8 million annually to fund future projects.

Individual property owners would see no tax increase. Instead, Oahu voters will be asked whether they want the percentage of overall property taxes for affordable housing to increase to 1% from 0.5%, forcing the City Council to recalculate the city’s budget.

Sixteen developers bid on the six upcoming affordable housing projects at an overall cost of nearly $28.2 million.

Anton Krucky, director of the city’s Department of Community Services, said they will be reconsidered for future affordable housing projects to be announced in October or September.

He called the lack of affordable housing on Oahu “a crisis.”

“The urgency for affordable housing is apparent,” he said. The six projects announced Tuesday range from the Waialua Mill Camp to Kailua, Halawa, McCully-Moiliili to Chinatown’s historic Hocking Building.

Krucky told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that Mayor Rick Blangiardi has convened an affordable housing committee of a minimum of five city departments that meets once a week and has resulted in projects coming online within five years, compared with nine years in the past.

For developers, Krucky hopes to see ground broken within a year on some of their projects, and the Blangiardi administration “will pay attention to permitting” to ensure that projects stay on schedule.

Blangiardi told the Star-Advertiser that Tuesday represented
a great day but that much more work to create more affordable housing is needed to keep young people and kupuna from moving to cheaper communities on the mainland or from becoming homeless.

Blangiardi said he was “pleased and honored we got to this point … but we know a lot more’s needed.”

The Oahu units will be available to a family of three that earns less than $70,560 annually, a couple earning less than $62,700 and individuals who earn less than $54,900.

The so-called Aloha Ia Halewiliko project planned for 3 acres on the mauka side of the Aiea Sugar Mill would create three stories of 140 affordable rental units for residents age 62 and above.

Claire Tamamoto, president of the ‘Aiea Community Association, said she hopes the housing project leads to the creation of a community center and outdoor and indoor activities for keiki to kupuna on the makai side of the 17-acre site, which is bordered on the Ewa side by the Aiea Library.

There is no funding to build a community center, but Tamamoto said other community organizers are watching to see what eventually surrounds Aloha Ia Halewiliko.

Once the project is built by EAH Housing, Lanakila Pacific plans to provide lunch and senior citizen activities, including classes on technology. “Since COVID we all need our skills using smartphones, booking appointments online,” said Laurie Hara, director of marketing and development for Lanakila Pacific.

Council member Brandon Elefante introduced what will become the Nov. 8 charter amendment raising the amount of the city’s affordable housing fund.

He called Tuesday’s announcement of the six new affordable housing projects “absolutely amazing and truly a win for the community.”

“Now nearly 1,000 people will have housing,” he said.

Much more work needs to be done, Elefante said, “but we have to start somewhere.”