The Kuakini Heights Affordable Housing project gets a boost

KAILUA-KONA, Hawai‘i — The Hawai‘i County Council on Wednesday unanimously adopted a resolution exempting the developer of an affordable housing project of certain code requirements.

The Kuakini Heights Affordable Housing project is proposed to be built in the heart of Kona, behind Lowe’s Home Improvement, by affordable housing developer Ahe Group of Kailua, O‘ahu.

Ahe is proposing 100 rental units for residents who fall in the 30 percent to 60 percent of Hawai‘i County median income, which ranges from $39,200 to $78,400 for a family of four.

The proposed project includes 14 one-bedroom, 72 two-bedroom and 13 three-bedroom units that would be built on a 10-acre parcel off Malulani Drive on land owned by SCD Kona 108 LLC.

Rezoning of the acreage in 2006 for residential development triggered affordable housing requirements. Chapter 11, Hawai‘i County’s Affordable Housing Policy, mandates the inclusion of affordable housing in and throughout various market developments. The rezoning of parcels triggers Chapter 11.

Adjacent to the affordable housing development, SCD Kona 108 LLC plans on developing 97 market rate units.

The council resolution states the majority of developed residential units for the project site shall serve as affordable housing, as approved by the county Office of Housing and Community Development, and the market rate residential development cannot exceed 49 percent of the overall development of the site.

Ahe was seeking exemption from Hawai‘i County Code provisions for setback requirements (10 foot in lieu of the 20 foot code), grading permit fees, building permit fees, and loading zone stall height requirements, as well as exemptions from change of zone conditions, time constraints on completion of construction, fair share contributions, and impact fees and removal of the condition to develop a Salvation Army Complex.

Kona resident Jerome Kanuha testified in support of the measure, emphasizing the importance of building affordable housing in the heart of Kona.

“This is going to benefit everybody,” he said. “If we can contain them in Kailua, they can walk everywhere so there won’t be so much traffic. We need to keep our kids here. This needs to move forward”

The original draft of the resolution called for the completion of the project within five years. That was amended to read the project was to commence in five years

Councilwoman Cindy Evans questioned the change of verbiage.

“There is no guarantee how long it could drag out after commencing,” she said.

She was also concerned that Ahe does not currently have financing for the project.

Ahe Group President Makani Maeva explained that for affordable housing development, funding comes after all of the regulatory and permit processes are complete.

“All of the resources come together at one time,” she said, noting sources of funding want to see a project that is ready to go. “Once we have all that we will be ready to go.”

Maeva also disclosed the total amount of fee exemptions is $211,780.

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