Rental project proposed for Lanai

Some question the ratio of affordable to market-rate units

Oracle billionaire Larry Ellison, through his company Pulama Lana’i, is proposing to develop 150 rental homes for Lanai — with 49 percent slated for market rates and the other 51 percent scheduled for affordable rents under a state fast-track process for affordable housing.

Although the Hokuao project is still in the planning stages, some Maui County Council members are already questioning the number of affordable units in the project, with one saying it should be 100 percent affordable.

The Hokuao project would build 76 affordable and 74 market-rate rental homes on about 76 acres of former pineapple fields neighboring Lanai City.

The plan includes a one-acre public park, a 1,500-square-foot public community center and 60 parking stalls for Hokuao residents, according to its draft environmental assessment published last week in the state Office of Environmental Quality Control’s “The Environmental Notice.”

Pulama Lana’i is seeking fast-track approval, which allows exemptions from certain rules, through the state’s 201H affordable housing law that requires a project have at least 51 percent affordability.

It’s the first new housing proposal from Ellison, CEO of Oracle Corp., who purchased 98 percent of Lanai in 2012.

“The Hokuao housing project, the first new housing development to be built since the island was acquired in 2012, will complement the original plantation-style homes that Pulama Lana’i has been restoring over the years and will embody the colorful character of the neighborhoods unique to Lanai City,” Kurt Matsumoto, chief operating officer of Pulama Lana’i, said in a statement. “We look forward to presenting our plans to Maui County Council and working together to bring new housing inventory to working families on Lanai.”

However, longtime Council Member Riki Hokama, who holds the Lanai residency seat and reaches term limits at the end of this year, said Tuesday that he is not “sold” on the market-rate component, noting that it is high.

Council Member Keani Rawlins-Fernandez, who holds the Molokai residency seat, echoed similar sentiments.

“The community of Lanai deserves a housing project that is nothing short of 100 percent affordable for the residents from the billionaire developer, otherwise I question who these houses are truly being built for,” she said Tuesday.

Maui County Council, which must sign off on Hokuao, has shot down recent 201H proposals and other developments with high market-to-affordable ratios.

Lihau’ula subdivision, a project proposing 40 affordable and 19 market-rate lots in Olowalu, was criticized for its lack of affordability, among other issues. It was denied by the council’s Affordable Housing Committee in October.

Rawlins-Fernandez said the 201H process is “fatally flawed” when it comes to preserving the interests of Hawaii and its people.

Hokama said he hopes Pulama Lana’i will work cooperatively with the county, since the county has a housing project adjacent to Pulama’s proposal.

“It’s my belief the island cannot afford both projects at this time,” he said. “We can handle one smart project.”

Maui County planned to build a 402-unit rental and fee-simple affordable housing project on undeveloped land just outside Lanai City. It had fast-track approval in 2010 but stalled in 2015 over high costs to build sewer and water lines to the property.

Council Member Tasha Kama, who holds the Kahului residency seat and chairs the Affordable Housing Committee, praised the project Tuesday.

“I’m delighted anytime we have the opportunity to add to our community’s inventory of affordable housing,” she said. “Especially on our sister island of Lanai, where affordable rentals are essentially nonexistent, access to housing is crucial for both residents and businesses. The pandemic has ransacked our economy, and now more than ever we must look at every possible means of keeping our people housed and employed.”

The Hokuao project would have lot sizes of about 8,000 square feet. The 76 affordable rentals would be two-bedroom units. For the market-rate rentals, 59 would be two-bedroom units and 15 would be four-bedroom units.

Residents earning 80 percent to 140 percent of the median income based on U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and county guidelines would be eligible for the affordable rentals, ranging from $965 to $1,688, a month, according to 2020 estimates in the draft environmental assessment.

The project’s draft EA was triggered by planned relocation of an existing sewer line and improvements on Ninth and Twelfth streets.

In order to move forward, Hokuao must receive approvals from the State Land Use Commission and the Maui County Council, along with the county’s Department of Public Works.

To view the draft environmental assessment, visit oeqc2.doh.hawaii.gov/Doc_Library/2020-12-23-LA-DEA-Hokuao-201H-Housing-Project.pdf.

Comments are due by Jan. 22 and should be sent to the approving agency, the county Department of Housing and Human Concerns, by mail at 2200 Main Street, Suite 546, Wailuku 96793; by phone 270-7351; or by email at director.hhc@mauicounty.gov.

The applicant and consultant should also be copied. Applicant Lanai Resorts, dba Pulama Lana’i can be reached by mail at 733 Bishop Street, Suite 1500, Honolulu 96813; by phone at (808) 237-2216; or by email at Kdancil@pulamalanai.com.

Consultant Hookuleana LLC can be reached by mail at 1534 Kanapu’u Drive, Kailua, 96734; by phone at (808) 226-3567; or by email at PeterYoung@hookuleana.com.

* Kehaulani Cerizo can be reached at kcerizo@mauinews.com.


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