KAKAAKO, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) -
There is an affordable housing crisis in the state of Hawaii. According to a report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, people who rent are paying substantially more to live here than anywhere else in the country.
The Hawaii Community development Authority has challenged developers to create a micro-unit high rise that would be built in the 600 block of Cooke Street in Kakaako.
Now two finalists, EAH Housing and Mutual Housing Association of Hawaii are vying to transform what's currently a parking lot and community garden into affordable housing.
Each unit would be a little over 300 square feet and they would be leased to people who make less than $57,000 a year. Five units would rent for under $400. The rest of the units would lease for $700 and up.
After four years living on the streets of Honolulu, Robert Binnie finally has a place he can call home. It's a modest one bedroom apartment, no more than 400 square feet.
"It's a palace to me," said Binnie.
Binnie moved to Hawaii from California back in 2009 in search of work.
"It was to my dismay that the rents were so high here. There is no place you can get a room for even $800," said Binnie.
He says if he had the option of moving into affordable housing, it may have kept him from becoming homeless.
Jenny Lee is the public policy director for Hawaii Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice.
"The average wage for a renter is just $14.50," said Lee.
Lee says in 5 years Honolulu will need an additional 14,000 affordable rental units.
"You can see we're not even developing enough units period let alone those that are serving the people who are lower income," said Lee.
Since one out of every three renters are single individuals and 80 percent of homeless are also on their own, Lee believes micro-units could be a step in the right direction in terms of finding a solution.
"In Hawaii the cost of land is one of the biggest issues we're facing. So smaller units in a place where we can enjoy the outdoors, walk to what we need. Micro-units are a great fit for that," said Lee.
These particular micro-units will be leased as affordable units for the next 60 years.