City plan would combine affordable housing projects with retail, restaurants

The city is laying out a new strategy to get more affordable housing in urban Honolulu.
Published: Oct. 27, 2021 at 5:10 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The city is laying out a new strategy to get more affordable housing in urban Honolulu.

The plan is to encourage developments that combine homes with retail and restaurants by relaxing height and density limits in neighborhoods that can handle the growth.

“Ideally we want to build along the King Street, the Beretania corridor ― you know, from Punchbowl to University, even to Waialae and sections of Kapahulu,” said Dean Uchida, director of the city Department of Planning and Permitting.

Uchida said the projects would mix condos or rental units with businesses on the ground floor so residents could work, dine or shop within walking distances of their homes, bringing new vitality to the streets.

“I think it will revitalize neighborhoods because the lack of foot traffic causes a lot of businesses to not succeed and allow more homeless people to come in,” he said.

While some residents worry about increased traffic congestion and the added stress on city facilities like sewers, former Honolulu Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi said the trade-off is worth it for more affordable housing.

“We need so much more,” she said.

“I’ve always said we should combine Safeway and Walgreens when they build stuff ... I said why don’t you building housing above that.”

Uchida said city will only target neighborhoods that have enough wastewater capacity to handle the growth. He said the city is now developing a map that will show where developers can build.

The city also wants to encourage developers who want to convert offices into residential units, citing the 1132 Bishop Street project.

Because of the sluggish office market, the owner is building 500 apartment units at the office tower -- half of them will be affordable.

“1132 Bishop is an example of what’s going on right now. We think there’s a lot of potential for that type of adaptive reuse,” he said.

The city also plans to provide general excise tax exemptions and financing for affordable housing developers.

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