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Who’s Building Affordable Housing in Hawai‘i?

Honolulu Habitat for Humanity

Many high-profile developers include affordable housing as required by law, but some developers specialize in that type of housing. Pacific Business News editor in chief A. Kam Napier has more on the people and projects adding affordable housing in Hawaii.

“Affordable” housing has a conversational meaning, as in, “Who can afford a home in Hawaii?” But in development and housing policy, “affordable housing” and “workforce housing” have specific, technical definitions. In general, the terms refer to housing with prices capped in relation to the AMI, or area median income. In Hawaii, eight of the 10 most common occupations pay about 60 percent of the area median income, so there’s a sizable market for affordable and workforce homes.

Makani Maeva is one of the developers working exclusively in this space. As president and CEO of Kailua-based Ahe Group, Maeva focuses on improving affordable housing we built in that past, pointing out that, “We can’t build it again for the cost we built it.” A year ago, she purchased a 49-unit senior rental building for $9.25 million, using tax-exempt bonds and tax credits. The current residents have been moved to temporary housing as she rehabs the building with the intent of making it last as affordable housing for another six decades.

Credit Honolulu Habitat for Humanity
Honolulu Habitat for Humanity

The need for affordable housing is so great that entities have evolved into being developers to meet it. For example, Catholic Charities Hawaii, which supports a broad portfolio of social services, just dedicated the second set of 75 affordable rental units it has built in Mililani with in a partnership Gary Furuta. Once the Meheula Vista project’s four phases are complete, it will boast 301 units. Furuta himself has built some 1,300 units in 15 projects and is working on a 62-unit low-income rental in Waikiki. And these are just a few of people making affordable housing happen.

A. Kam Napier is the editor-in-chief of Pacific Business News.
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