State offers new funding plan for stalled 19-story affordable housing project

(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - During a briefing on Wednesday, state lawmakers learned about a new plan to fund an affordable housing development in Honolulu that has been languishing for years.

The state judiciary owns the 1.5 acre parcel on Alder Street, just a few blocks from the planned Ala Moana rail station. The site used to house a juvenile detention center. The property currently has a shelter for troubled youth who do not need to be detained.

The proposal calls for a 19-story highrise with 180 affordable rental units. The juvenile court system would occupy the first three floors, providing centralized services and a shelter for low-level violators and status offenders.

"This will provide kind of that one-stop service shop for the Central Honolulu population to work with the kids to get them the skill sets, get them the training they need to be successful," explained Dee Dee Letts, coordinator for the Office of Project Management, First Judicial Circuit.

The Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corporation's board preliminarily approved the use of $15 million of the agency's Dwelling Unit Revolving Fund for Phase 1 of the juvenile services section, an option that only became available last year. Lawmakers approved $1.7 million for planning and design in 2015. The developer will be responsible for securing financing for the residential units.

"We're trying to establish a model for mixed-use development with other state agencies so this is one of our first and it has been a learning experience," said Craig Hirai, executive director of the Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corporation.

The rental units would only be offered to people making less than 60% of the state's median income, roughly $47,000 for a family of four. The monthly rent for a studio would be $1,000 per month, while a one-bedroom would cost about $1,100 a month.

The project is expected to go out to bid this fall. The state estimates the development would be completed in late 2021.

"We're hoping that our board will decide tomorrow that it will be well worth it just to get the housing there," said Hirai.

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