Councilman airs plan for affordable housing

Published: Oct. 10, 2011 at 5:42 PM HST|Updated: Oct. 11, 2011 at 2:55 AM HST
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City Councilman Tom Berg
City Councilman Tom Berg
Brian Pregana
Brian Pregana

By Jim Mendoza - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - City Councilman Tom Berg dubbed it "One Step Up Housing." The concept calls for converting a shipping container into an affordable home, and then putting it on agricultural land.

The retrofitted containers would have living quarters, a kitchen and other features.

"The shipping container being roughly $10,000 to $13,000, with flooring and ventilation and running water and a bathroom, that's less than a car payment," he said.

Berg wants to let agricultural land owners put the units on their property for up to five years to house homeless and working poor in exchange for their working on the land.

Brian Pregana envisions several units on the few acres he owns in Maili. Some of his property sits empty and undeveloped.

"With this being an option, you can offer a lending hand to a family member or a friend," he said.

But some in the farming community feel the plan unfairly pushes society's problems onto those in agriculture.

"If you open up ag land for affordable housing use, you open up a can of worms that can get out of hand," said Dean Okimoto of Nalo Farms.

Berg counters that renters would help farmers guard their property.

"This is really getting government out of the way so that the private sector has an opportunity to really address illegal dumping on their property and ag theft and their assets, so they can protect them as they best see fit," he said.

If the proposal passes, landowners who want to do it would have to go before their neighborhood board and get approval from the City Planning Commission.

"I don't have a big spread to be lining up containers, but there is a little bit of space available," Pregana said.

The council plans more meetings on Berg's affordable housing idea.

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