YOUR GOVERNMENT — Asing calls for concrete housing plan

LIHU‘E — Kaua‘i County Councilman Kaipo Asing wants county housing officials to put forward concrete plans to develop more affordable housing on the island before he approves a state resolution calling on officials with a state housing agency to provide help to the counties in that area.

During a meeting of the council’s Community Assistance Committee at the historic County Building, Asing expressed his astonishment when Ken Rainforth, the county’s housing specialist, failed to tick off to his satisfaction a list of goals and priorities for the building of such homes.

Rainforth said after the meeting that leaders in the County Housing Agency in the Offices of Community Assistance realize more affordable housing units need to be developed, and that county leaders are making progress on projects undertaken by government officials, or projects that are required to be implemented as permit-approval conditions imposed on developers.

“We have Pa‘anau (Village a low-income, rental-apartment project in Koloa), Kalepa (Village Apartments, also a low-income, rental-apartment complex, in Hanama‘ulu) housing project, and the Kauai Lagoons project (106 units to be built in Lihu‘e and in Waipouli as part of a zoning condition for the right by Kauai Lagoons officials to build resort facilities on land by Lihu‘e Airport),” Rainforth said.

Rainforth also noted that Mayor Bryan J. Baptiste is working with Gov. Linda Lingle to use state lands for the construction of 575 affordable units.

At the same time, county leaders could see 700 more affordably-priced homes built on the island over two years, the result of efforts by self-help housing groups and developers meeting affordable-housing requirements, Baptiste has said.

Asing’s criticism of Baptiste’s direction in building affordable housing came during a discussion by council members of a resolution on affordable housing adopted by members of the board of directors of the Housing and Community Development Corporation of Hawaii.

The resolution covers the affordable-housing development efforts of all the counties.

Through the resolution, leaders with the HCDCH propose to support affordable-housing initiatives of leaders of all the counties, and offer the technical assistance of HCDCH staff members to build more affordable housing units in the respective counties.

The portion dealing with Kaua‘i County notes that the Kauai Housing Advisory Committee members are close to completing a proposal for an affordable-housing law.

The resolution notes, as well, that county leaders are establishing a concurrent review process in which developers will meet with members of the county’s Affordable Housing Task Force and heads of government-review agencies.

The affordable-housing projects are to be “red tagged” to allow them to be developed before market projects, the resolution reads.

The authors of the resolution noted as well that county leaders are moving ahead with such projects, including 80 more multi-family units at Kalepa Village, 60 multi-family units at Pa‘anau Village, and 40 multi-family units in Kapa‘a.

During the meeting as well, Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura said she is outraged that county officials were given only two days notice before the recent arrival to the island of members of an affordable-housing task force consisting of state legislators.

The council members were tied up in meetings, other county officials were indisposed, and Rainforth and Gary Mackler, a county housing specialist as well, were the only county officials on hand that day to escort the housing group members to affordable-housing projects and sites for the development of new affordable-housing projects.

Councilman Jay Furfaro said he also was tied up that day, but managed to attend a public hearing members of the legislative group held on the island to solicit public comments on how to build more affordable housing.

Furfaro said more affordable housing can be built on Kaua‘i by having more land available for such projects, having members of the state Legislature fund infrastructure projects, having the county housing agency leaders focus their attention on developing the projects, and having between $40,000 to $50,000 for an engineering study for an affordable-housing site.

Yukimura said she was impressed by the work of UniDev, LLC, based in Bethesda, Md., in the development of Kamakoa Vistas on the Big Island.

The project consists of 800 to 1,200 single-family and multi-family rental units and for-sale homes, and is geared for the working man and woman.

The project is the Big Island’s largest affordable-housing project to date.

Yukimura said that if leaders of that company can help the Big Island officials in that way, Kaua‘i County officials should consider hiring the consultant. “You might want to talk with them,” Yukimura said.

The company workers specialize in building workforce housing, and its mission is to develop affordable, high-quality, for-sale and rental housing.

Lester Chang, staff writer, may be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) or lchang@kauaipubco.com.

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