“Kalihi, a long time ago, became a dumping ground for housing. It was just dump, dump, dump,” said Honolulu resident Gayle Nakama.
The Hawaii Public Housing Authority on North School Street has been part of Nakama’s view for years, as have several public housing developments.
From the hill above, you can easily spot more than half-a-dozen, low-income housing buildings clustered within a few blocks.
“Affordable housing is no longer for just poor people. They are working people who have two or three jobs. So, this is a great start. We are very excited,” said Hakim Ouansafi, Executive Director for HPHA.
On Monday, the HPHA announced who the developer will be for the project surrounding its offices, which will include up to 800 low-income units, with construction projected to start by the end of 2016.
“Our last study showed we were some 60,000 units short. So, this will put a dent into it,” said State Representative Mark Hashem.
Local lawmakers are on board, but Nakama says people who live in the area are not.
More than 100 people showed up for the latest neighborhood board meeting.
“Not one person stood up and voted for the project, because we have more than our share,” she said.
“If you over burden it you can create a downward spiral,” explained nearby resident Robert Arakaki, who analyzed Hawaii’s low-income housing inventory and created charts to illustrate it.
“What really struck me was the discrepancy,” he said.
His research shows Senate District 13 has double the concentration of low-income housing compared to the next highest district.
“We started with KPT, then Mayor Wright, then School Street. Anything we do here is going to be a net gain,” said Ouansafi.
HPHA has a wish list of 10 low-income projects to start by 2017.
Several are in and around Kalihi.
Others are in Waipahu, Aiea, and other parts of Honolulu.
“I’d want to replace it with a ‘passive use’ park,” said Arakaki, looking down on the HPHA property.
Nakama and Arakaki agree the housing crisis is bad, but believe more senior housing and amenities would better fit their community.
“There is a housing crisis, but we all need to do our part,” said Arakaki.
HPHA Executive Director Hakim Ouansafi countered those complaints, saying, “The HPHA values the community’s voice and vision for the School Street project. At last week’s HPHA Board meeting, members heard overwhelming support from the public and others for the development of additional affordable housing in the area.”
Ouansafi says there will still be a number of opportunities for the community to participate in the planning process.
The “Retirement Housing Foundation” will be the master developer.
Its team includes financial advisors, property managers and a community advocate.