State wants to build huge affordable housing projects with units on 99-year leases

The ALOHA Homes initiative is modeled after a government program that helped address...
The ALOHA Homes initiative is modeled after a government program that helped address Singapore's housing crisis.(CNN)
Updated: Mar. 15, 2019 at 11:50 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Imagine purchasing a condo near one of Oahu’s planned rail stations for $300,000.

That’s the goal behind an ambitious affordable housing proposal aimed at helping address Hawaii’s housing crisis.

State Senate Housing Committee Chairman Stanley Chang says the ALOHA Homes initiative is modeled after a public housing program in Singapore.

“Eighty percent of Singapore’s population live in public housing,” said Chang. “It’s clean, it’s well-maintained, it’s safe, and it’s very popular.”

Under the proposal, the state would build dense condominiums on state land — then sell each unit with a 99-year lease.

"We think we can do something like this for about $300,000. Working people would be able to afford a unit like this. Not everybody, but a lot more people than currently can afford a unit," said Chang.

Chang says the units will fit a family of four.

Like Singapore's projects, he says the huge towers will have amenities such as swimming pools, gardens, and retail stores.

The condos will be built near rail stations. Some locations discussed for redevelopment include Aloha Stadium, Oahu Community Correctional Center, and McKinley High School.

“For our program, we will have absolutely no income cap. We will have absolutely no first-time homebuyer restrictions. It doesn’t matter how much money you make, it doesn’t matter if you already own a home, everyone will be welcome,” Chang said.

He added the ALOHA Homes program will cost taxpayers nothing. He says the cost of building the unit will be covered by the price to buy the unit.

There will also be resale conditions to discourage those looking to make a profit.

"Every sale into the secondary market, 75-percent of the profit is going to go back to the state. Those profits will help the state maintain the buildings," said Chang.

A recent public opinion poll by Pacific Resource Partnership found a lack of affordable housing is one of the greatest personal concerns among Hawaii families, and one of the reasons many are choosing to leave the state or are at least thinking about it.

Gov. David Ige supports the plan.

“Our proposal for leasehold condominiums is our way to get affordable, for sale properties to our community,” he said.

But Dr. Kelii Akina, president and CEO of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, said while the bill is well-intended, it’s not the answer.

"I think we need to come up with better solutions to help people acquire homes, and its not making government a landlord," said Akina. "The government should look at means of helping people to become wealthier. One is to tax them less and also to have policies that bring down the cost of housing."

The ALOHA Homes proposal passed the Senate and is now moving in the House.

If it becomes law, Chang said, it will probably be more than five years before the first condos will be available.

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