Proposed Hawaii Affordable Housing Project Draws Opposition

Jun 6, 2020

Members of an Kailua community have expressed opposition to plans to build a rental apartment complex with primarily low-income units.

The complex in Kailua would include 73 apartments almost entirely intended for residents with low incomes, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Thursday.

Some close neighbors and other community members say the site is inappropriate.

The estimated $37 million project, called Kawainui Street Apartments, is led by Kailua-­based development firm Ahe Group and three nonprofit partners.

An Ahe Group affiliate owns the parcel which currently has seven single-family homes at the edge of a neighborhood bordering Kailua’s commercial core.

The developer filed an application with the city Department of Planning and Permitting seeking an exemption from zoning density and height limits because the project delivers low-income housing.

Affordable rents would be maintained for 61 years with monthly rental rates projected from $521 to $1,412 for 68 affordable units with one or two bedrooms.

Seven units would be reserved for households earning up to 50% of the median income, while seven units would be for households earning up to 30% of the median income.

Four units would be rented at close-to-market rates and one unit would be reserved for a manager.

The developer has sought tax credits from the state Housing Finance and Development Corp. and about $522,000 in waived city fees to assist with financing.

Ahe President and CEO Makani Maeva said the area is well suited for affordable housing, which she said Kailua lacks.

“It is not the countryside,” Maeva said. “It is ideally situated for affordable housing.”

Opponents argue the project will have negative impacts on traffic, street parking, views, and the character of the neighborhood zoned for single-family homes.

“It’s a bad location,” said Toni Pedro, a second-generation Kailua resident. “It’ll be an eyesore.”

The Lanikai Outdoor Circle organization expressed concerned about similar buildings rising in single-family neighborhoods, describing the project as a “monster development in the heart of an historically low-rise neighborhood.”