Affordable rental project unveiled to west side audience

Nonprofit looks to build 200 units on state land by 2022

Doug Bigley, Ikaika Ohana president and executive officer of UHC Communities, presents the proposed Keawe Street Apartments to an audience of 20 residents Wednesday night at the Kaunoa Senior Center in Lahaina. -- The Maui News / DAKOTA GROSSMAN photo

LAHAINA — West Maui residents raised concerns about traffic safety and guaranteeing units for local families, but were generally supportive Wednesday of plans to build a 200-unit affordable rental project in Lahaina.

Nonprofit developer Ikaika Ohana is looking to build 200 rental apartments off Keawe Street. The housing complex would include two-, three- and four-bedroom units, ranging from $530 to $1,500 a month. The project would occupy around 18-20 acres of land within a 400-acre parcel owned by the state.

Doug Bigley, president of Ikaika Ohana, said that the obvious but very serious issue of affordable housing needs immediate attention. Bigley spoke Wednesday night to 20 residents at the Kaunoa Senior Center in Lahaina.

“There’s a big, big push to solve this affordable housing issue. In fact, I think a wave is really coming more aggressively, both on this island and statewide,” said Bigley, who is also an executive officer of UHC Communities, which oversees project feasibility, planning and financing. “The reason I’m working this hard, is because I want to do this project. Why? Because it will be good for the population I serve.”

Ikaika Ohana is a nonprofit affordable housing developer, social service coordinator and asset management company that works with the state and private companies to develop housing. In January, the Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corp. chose the program to move forward with the proposed project.

The tentative layout for the Keawe Street Apartments is shown during a community meeting in Lahaina on Wednesday night. The project would include two-, three- and four-bedroom apartments as well as a playground, garden, community center, bus stops and access to social services. -- The Maui News / DAKOTA GROSSMAN photo

Bigley estimated that the Keawe Street Apartments would be completed by 2022, with Ikaika Ohana getting a 65-year property lease with the state.

West Maui residents raised a few concerns about traffic, water and land entitlement. They wondered how additional housing would impact traffic in surrounding neighborhoods, which in turn may increase accidents coming off of the newest phase of the Lahaina bypass.

Bigley said that all possible repercussions of the added 200 units are being analyzed, but not every concern has an answer yet. This particular piece of land in West Maui was selected for construction because it was “shovel ready,” meaning that most of the initial reports, like land use studies, have been completed and it would be the quickest way to put affordable housing back on the market.

“The advantage we have here, is we can piggyback off of the work that has already been done in those areas to identify initial access points,” he said. “We may be debating these access points here, which is all relevant, but we have to put something forth out in the public for people to respond to . . . then we can begin to crystallize a project.”

Through public opinion, they hope to fine-tune the conceptual plan, he said.

Bigley added that the nonprofit partnered with Munekiyo Hiraga, an urban planning and project management consulting firm that has initiated the 201H application process. This includes a preliminary engineering and drainage report, traffic impact analysis and archaeological monitoring plan.

Because the project would be built on ceded lands, residents wondered whether the state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands would be involved and whether the units would be for Native Hawaiian families, or at least guaranteed to the local population.

However, Bigley said the units must be open to all eligible families and individuals to avoid “violating fair housing laws.” The state requires that everyone would have the opportunity and access to the new affordable housing.

“It’s the concern in every community we build in,” he said. “That problem is so systemic because the need for affordable housing is so severe that people are dying to get in, so they’re always watching. . . . We are doing some things to help, but it isn’t perfect.”

The state Legislature appropriated $37 million for the project out of the Rental Housing Revolving Fund, provided that the land use entitlements are obtained by April 30, 2020, according to representative Tom Fischer of Ikaika Ohana. The cost of the project varies since the plan is always developing, Fischer said, but they may use the entirety of the funds.

Fischer said that the main qualification for the Keawe Street Apartments is income, which would be for families earning 60 percent or less of the Lahaina area median income.

For example, the cost of a two-bedroom unit for a family with an annual income of $29,200, or 30 percent of the median income, would be about $540 per month. For a family with an annual income of $39,000, or 40 percent of the median income, the same unit would be about $760 per month. And, for a family earning about $58,500 a year, or 60 percent of the median income, it would cost about $1,200 a month.

An extension of Keawe Street would also be built to add access to the mauka side of the property. The apartments would specifically be located above the Lahaina Gateway.

Bigley said there are two considerations for a sewage treatment plant. If required, an additional plant would be installed below the proposed community or they may tap into the nearby existing plant.

While the plan is not official yet, the property would receive potable water resources from the county as long as the development remains at a certain elevation, Fischer said.

In addition to the units, Ikaika Ohana plans to incorporate a playground, gardens, a community center, bus stops and access to social services.

For more information, visit ikaikaohana.org or email Tom Fischer of Ikaika Ohana at tfischer@uhcllc.net.

* Dakota Grossman can be reached at dgrossman@mauinews.com.