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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, July 25, 2006

'Ewa rentals to aid families

By Rod Ohira
Advertiser Staff Writer

EWA VILLAGES AREA H

WHAT: Rental-housing project for families who earn less than 60 percent of Honolulu's median income.

PROJECT: Construction of first phase of 64 units starts in October 2007. Phase II, 64 units, 2009; Phase III, 64 units, 2010.

DESIGN: Community center for residents, computer learning facility, meeting spaces, full kitchen, recreation areas with six tot lots and outdoor courts, and 380 parking spaces.

APARTMENT MIX (Phase 1):

<LI> One-bedroom: monthly rent $578-$705.

<LI> Two-bedroom: monthly rent $684-$863.

<LI> Three-bedroom: monthly rent $786-$962.

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'EWA Tesha Malama hopes a low-income rental housing project called "Ewa Villages Area H" will offer some families a chance to stay within the community and save money to apply toward future home ownership.

"This is truly a blessing," Malama said at yesterday's announcement that Ecumenical Association for Housing and Hui Kauhale Inc. a nonprofit corporation the association formed in Hawai'i in 1996 will develop and manage a 192-unit, low-income rental apartment project on 23.4 acres off Renton Road.

Hui Kauhale purchased the property in December 2001 with $5.5 million in city funds from community development block grants. Mayor Mufi Hannemann yesterday presented Alvin Bonnett, the association's senior vice president for real estate, with a check for $2.1 million in federal funds given to the city through the HOME Investment Partnership Act.

The development will serve families with annual incomes up to $42,780, about 50 percent to 60 percent less than the median income in Honolulu.

"There are people out there definitely working who cannot afford rent of $1,200 a month, not including utilities," said Malama, manager of the 'Ewa Homeowners Association. "This needed to be developed two or three years ago to head off the need of people who are on the beaches now.

"We were getting complaints that people couldn't afford the half-million-dollar homes that were being built by the developers in this area, and that we needed someplace where people could afford to stay in the community," Malama said. "The whole cost of living just outpaced what many people made. People can't even afford to buy gas, food, and so something like this will help them to stay off the beach."

Hannemann added, "If we don't help folks ... who need affordable rentals, the next step is homelessness. It's absolutely critical to engage in private-public partnerships to get it done."

Bonnett said the task of raising money for the project delayed its start, Bonnett said. "No one allocation was big enough to support the development. Then we had to get tax credits. Selling off a portion of this property finalized this deal," he said.

In addition to the 192 units, Bonnett said, 50 single-family fee-simple homes will be developed near the 'Ewa Villages golf course at about the same time as Phase I.

"The profit from the sale of those homes will be shared with (the low-rent apartment) development," Bonnett said. "It's our way of getting additional money into the affordable housing so that we can develop it."

Reach Rod Ohira at rohira@honoluluadvertiser.com.