Seniors in affordable housing project mark first phase of renova - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Seniors in affordable housing project mark first phase of renovations

Alvin Wong Alvin Wong
Rep. Karl Rhoads Rep. Karl Rhoads
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Residents of the Keola Hoonanea senior affordable housing project got a holiday gift Saturday by celebrating the completion of the first phase of renovations to a facility that has served their population for nearly five decades.

Members of the project's board of directors untied a maile lei to mark the end of $2.1 million dollars of work at the building on Aala Street.

Rent for most of the 175 units is just $440 a month. "Now for you and me that might be a small amount, but for them, that's a major portion of their fixed income," said board president Alvin Wong.

The renovations included improvements from top to bottom in the 23-story building, many of them invisible to the casual visitor. "A solar system, and to change the plumbing system throughout the building, the electrical system, along with the common facilities," he said.

There's also an updated computerized fire alarm system throughout the building, as well as new air conditioned multi-purpose rooms where residents got a buffet lunch Saturday.

A joint venture including four churches started the building process back in 1968, realizing that seniors on a limited income needed an affordable place to live.

"If this building did not exist, there would be more homeless on our streets," said state Rep. Karl Rhoads (D-Chinatown, Iwilei). 

There are some market priced units in the building, but most of the residents are there through the federal government's Section 8 housing voucher program.

We asked one longtime resident, who didn't want us to use his last name, where he would be if Keola Hoonanea didn't exist. "Probably in one of those shared care homes, rent a room in a care home or something like that," said Regi, who has lived in the building since 1999.

A project like Keola Hoonanea is rare. There's a two-year-long waiting list to get in.

There's also more work to be done. Wong said a second phase of renovations to individual units is on hold until funding can be found.

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