3/17/21 #kihei MAUI NEWS FRONT PAGE ARTICLE
Rents would start in $500 range for Kaiaulu o Halele‘a
A nonprofit housing developer is proposing a new 63-unit affordable rental project in South Maui with monthly rates starting at just over $500.
Ikaika Ohana, which is behind 100-percent affordable housing projects like Kaiaulu O Kupuohi in West Maui and Kaiwahine Village in north Kihei, is now planning the 63-unit Kaiaulu o Halele’a project, which would rent to households at or below 60 percent of the area median income. Two-bedroom units would run from $556 to $1,248 and three-bedroom units would go for $623 to $1,423, according to Douglas Bigley, Ikaika Ohana president. One unit would be constructed for an onsite manager.
On Monday, the Maui County Council’s Affordable Housing Committee recommended approval for Ikaika Ohana’s plans to use a $1.5 million county grant for the new Kihei apartments.
With the vote of 8-0, with one committee member excused, the proposal would allow Ikaika Ohana to loan the money to a limited partnership in order to employ non-county funds for development and construction. Essentially, it will make funds more compatible for the project, which is heavily subsidized by federal, state and county money that each carry layers of regulation.
“This is going to be for site work,” Bigley said. “We have to advance it. Then we have to apply to you to receive it. You know what it’s being spent for, you know we’ve already advanced it and you know that you’re only reimbursing it.”
“It’s almost a triple-check process on everything we spend,” he added. “At the end, we have to audit that.”
In June, the council had approved the $1,508,558 Affordable Housing Fund grant for Ikaika Ohana’s land acquisition, planning, design, onsite improvements, new construction and other development costs for Kaiaulu o Halele’a.
Bigley said during Monday’s meeting that the county’s $1.5 million represents about 10 or 11 percent of the total project funding. The estimated project cost is $62 million, according to a May Affordable Housing Committee meeting.
The developer explained that combining subsidies helps offset the cost of developing a unit on Maui, which has “continued to increase at exponential proportions.”
“It’s staggering,” Bigley said. “I think part of it is material costs . . . Lumber has literally doubled in six to eight months.”
While developing housing for 60 percent AMI is a “loss on anybody’s books,” Bigley said his team is passionate about urgently getting homes to people who desperately need it.
“I tell my team, ‘They don’t need it tomorrow — they need it yesterday,’” he said. “Every single time we take something on, we approach it with that sense of urgency. There is someone out there who lives in a garage . . . whose kids aren’t taken care of. They can’t wait, so we can’t wait.”
Kaiaulu o Halele’a was praised for working to provide affordable housing at Monday’s meeting.
“The Kihei Community Association is extremely pleased with Ikaika Ohana’s prior project in north Kihei, and we expect similar quality in this new project,” testified Mary Trotto, association board member.
Council Vice Chairwoman Keani Rawlins-Fernandez said the project is supported by the community, the council and the administration.
“This is what can happen when you get a project that is supported, then it can move quickly,” she said. “I think we all love to have these kinds of projects come to us so we can move quickly and get people into homes that are truly affordable.”
Committee Chairman Gabe Johnson thanked Bigley for his work, pointing to the rental prices.
“I consider myself a member of the working core, and these are rents I think I can afford as a single parent,” he said. “Last year’s council had a lot of talk about structuring economy toward single incomes. The $500 is a beautiful range.”
* Kehaulani Cerizo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.