Governor’s plan to address homeless crisis includes construction of more than a dozen tiny home villages

In an interview, Gov. Josh Green told HNN that a total of 24 sites are currently under consideration.
Published: Apr. 5, 2023 at 4:42 PM HST|Updated: Apr. 5, 2023 at 6:27 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Green Administration is unveiling an ambitious plan to tackle Hawaii’s homeless crisis that involves establishing communal villages of tiny homes in communities across the state.

In an interview, Gov. Josh Green told HNN that a total of 24 sites are currently under consideration. A list of those sites is expected to be released in about a month.

Green says the goal is to construct so-called “kauhale villages” on up to 15 of those parcels.

Master planned communities made up of tiny homes and shared amenities is a concept Green was pushing years before he was ever governor.

RELATED: To address homelessness in his backyard, Green proposes pop-up homeless village near state Capitol

Now, he says kauhale villages will play an integral role in helping solve Hawaii’s homeless crisis.

“We have to cut through the red tape and build housing,” he said.

To jump start that process, Green signed an emergency proclamation that suspends certain laws in order to expedite construction.

As for where the villages could be built: Green says he’d like to see two on Hawaii Island, two on Maui and at least one on Kauai.

Plus, “I’d say about three quarters are on Oahu which is a reflection of the population,” he said.

“There will be a concentration Downtown and Waianae.”

Tiny homes for the homeless could start going up near the Capitol as early as this summer as part of a Green Administration plan.

It’s still unclear exactly how much money the Legislature will put towards the issue of homelessness. “They have $30 million as of now for ‘ohana zones.’ And there will be millions more for kauhale as we’ve asked,” he said.

What’s the difference between an ohana zone and a kauhale?

“Think of an ohana zone as a safe area where people can get services. A kauhale is specifically a village,” Green said.

Ohana zones, he added, are designed as places where homeless could come without fear of being swept “where people could have a tiny house, or have a tent, or a safe place to park a car where they’ve been living out of.”

He admits some aspects of an ohana zone aren’t ideal.

But he adds these spaces will play an important role in getting people out of parks and from in front of businesses.

“We want people in homes. We want a roof over their head,” Green said. “But we know they reality is that some people aren’t ready. So the less resources we have to use from police to move people out the better.”

In the meantime, Chief Housing Officer Nani Medeiros has been touring potential kauhale sites.

The most recent site was on Maui.

In addition to government land, she said, “We’ve got a private landowner who has acres and acres and has got onsite infrastructure. He’s interested in developing kauhale and funding it himself.

“He simply wants the state to help him figure out how to move ahead and do that.”

Green says a kauhale typically costs about $2.5 million to build. That consists of about 30 tiny homes along with shared amenities, like bathrooms, kitchens and other community spaces.