On Hawaiʻi Island, Pahoa’s emergency shelter closed this week — after helping local residents since the latest lava flow broke out in May. Hundreds of homes have been destroyed in the Puna District — the fastest-growing community on the Big Island. That makes a housing shortage there even worse, but now there are plans for a new development that may include 900 homes in Puna.
W.H. Shipman, Ltd owns more than 16,000 acres in Puna. The family-owned company was founded by the son of missionary William Cornelius Shipman in 1882. Business these days ranges from agricultural leasing to industrial and commercial development. Company president Bill Walter is the great grandson of the founder, and explains what’s coming next.
“We began working on a master plan for the Keaʻau area about 13 years ago, and we’ve executed it piece by piece. We finally got to this place which is to zone about 120 acres in Keaʻau between our office and the high school, elementary school, right across the street from both of those organizations, largely residential.”
Walter says the project’s focus is on housing for Puna’s working families.
“To put houses in a location where people can have kids walk to school, they can walk to work, have parks, have a commercial area, and make it really a nice living area. It reminds me of Hilo when I grew up. The demand we see is local families, the young police officer and his family, the teacher and her family, carpenters, plumbers, people who make this community really work.”
Walter envisions up to 900 single and multiple family units, with prices as low as $250,000 dollars. The plan is to use modern technology wastewater treatment, and create a distinctive community. He says it will probably take up to three years for the first homes to be built, given all the permits required. The first step is underway — the Environmental Assessment is on the State Department of Environmental Quality Control website. Comments are due by Monday.