For the next 61 years (at least), these Chinatown units will be affordable

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

blessing and re-dedication ceremony Wednesday marked the end of a major makeover for a low-income apartment complex in Chinatown.

CHINATOWN (HawaiiNewsNow) - Residents celebrated the completion of a project to transform the River Pauahi apartments.

The 49-unit building was at risk of being converted to a market rate complex. Instead, the property will remain affordable for the next 61 years through a $12.6 million acquisition and renovation project by the Ahe Group and Southport Financial Services

The extensive upgrades include remodeled kitchens and bathrooms. Crews also put in new flooring, fixtures and energy efficient appliances

"I loved it. I loved it when I saw the floors and everything, compared to what it was," said tenant Linda Velles, who has been living in the complex for 32 years.

The project also improved the common areas with new landscaping, lighting and security cameras. Despite all of the changes, the rents for the roughly 80 tenants remain the same.

"I don't have to worry about moving or being homeless cause you can't afford the rent these days, they're so high," said Velles.

The project secured a 75-year ground lease with the city and a 61-year use agreement with the Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corporation.

"What we're able to do is give them a high quality place to live, someplace they're comfortable. It's safe, it's decent, it's secure," said Makani Maeva, president of Ahe Group.

Built in 1979, the complex has one and two-bedroom units that are restricted to rents at 60 percent of the Area Median Income.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development provides rental support.

A Section 8 contract ensures that tenants pay no more than 30 percent of their income for housing.

The monthly rent in the building is as low as $45.

"I think a lot of developers see the luxury housing stuff and say there's bigger bucks to be made there, and so I commend you for your commitment to supplying the housing that the state actually needs," said state Sen. Karl Rhoads (D-Chinatown, Downtown, Nuuanu).

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