Lawmakers press for update on housing projects

Published On: Jul 23 2014 06:56:22 PM HST   Updated On: Jul 23 2014 09:10:53 PM HST

It is full speed ahead for high-end towers in Kakakao that are being developed by the Howard Hughes Corporation.

Click here to watch Catherine Cruz' report.

But in contrast, there's been no visible movement on the more affordable reserve  housing project at 401 Ward Avenue.

There has been no word on the fate of 690 Pokukaina, what was to have been the tallest high-rise in the state, offering hundreds of affordable rentals.

"Because of the passing of House Bill 1866, Act 61 we have to re-evaluate the design proposal given the height restriction.  So, we are still going ahead and doing that. However, the Hawaii Community Development Authority is still committed to providing these low income affordable units," said HCDA’s compliance officer, Lindsey Doi.

Lawmakers at a joint legislative hearing, pressed state and city housing officials about what's in the pipeline, and why we can’t seem to produce more units that Hawaii residents can afford.

"The state has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the infrastructure for Kakaako over the years. Any developer that goes in there to build a condominium is benefiting form a state subsidy," said Sen. Laura Thielen.

To be exact, the state has pumped $200 million to build sewers and roads in Kakaako. Thielen believes the state should be asking developers to do more to tackle a projected shortage of 50,0000 housing units in 2016.

And as the city’s rail project takes shape, some lawmakers expressed frustration that the state is’nt doing more to coordinate with the city on its transit development since the state owns most of the land around the rail stations.

"My concern is the tail is wagging the dog. You are having the agencies have their own plan, rather than you folks saying we are going to approach this from a statewide perspective," said Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz.

The further along they are, you are losing opportunities," he said.

Dela Cruz doesn’t feel there's any sense of urgency.

Across town a state rental projects for seniors in Iwilei is up and running.

There are other plans for lofts in Kakakao, and on block on Cooke Street owned by the state, there are plans for micro-units--essentially studios with Murphy beds.

But when some 6,000 homeless are on the streets or in emergency shelters on any given night, lawmakers say we need to do a lot more, a lot faster.

There is also a wait lit of 11,000 for the state's affordable housing projects.

Housing officials along with the governor’s chief of staff, Bruce Coppa, weren’t prepared to discuss the rail project as it relates to housing at the afternoon hearing.

But they did say that it’s likely more of the affordable units would be in the Iwilei area in the urban core.


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