Neighbors sue to block affordable housing complex

HONOLULU (AP) — Residents near a planned affordable housing project in Hawaii filed a lawsuit to prevent construction of the apartment complex.

Neighbors of the proposed Hale Makana O Maili project on Oahu say the complex is out of place and not correctly permitted, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Sunday.

The residents of Maili established a nonprofit group called Na Kiai O Maili Inc., meaning “protectors of Maili,” and filed a lawsuit against the city and Laulima Development in November.

Construction began in October and the group members said their property values and well-being will be diminished if the project is completed.

“Basically what we’re saying is it’s not appropriate to have such a large development relative to the neighborhood’s size,” said Hayden Burgess, an attorney who represents the group. “They’re going to change the character of the neighborhood.”

The developers are trying to be sensitive to the character of the neighborhood by limiting building heights to two stories, said Kali Watson, who oversees the project for the Hawaiian Community Development Board.

“We’re building affordable housing for the people of Hawaii,” Watson said. “What’s the harm? The (project) is going to be nice.”

The lawsuit contends the developer and the city violated Hawaii’s law permitting affordable-housing projects, but does not specify how.

The site previously contained 10 homes and abuts part of a single-family home subdivision. Zoning for the property allows only one home per 5,000 square feet of land, or up to 24 homes for the site.

The housing complex is expected to be more dense than the surrounding area, but Laulima Development obtained a zoning exemption under a state law allowing affordable housing waivers.

Monthly rents for the units were projected last year to range from $526 to $1,115 for one-bedroom units, from $619 to $1,326 for two-bedroom units and from $703 to $1,519 for three-bedroom units depending on tenant income.