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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, March 30, 2006

Trailer parks considered as housing for homeless

By Treena Shapiro
Advertiser Government Writer

While Honolulu officials prepared temporary accommodations for the homeless forced out of Ala Moana Beach Park, across the street at the Capitol, state lawmakers discussed whether trailers or manufactured housing could yield more permanent affordable housing.

About 20 people camped outside Honolulu Hale for a second night last night only about 10 percent of the homeless who had to leave the Ala Moana park when the city began closing it at night on Monday.

Most City Hall campers were scared away when police showed up the first night.

"They felt threatened, so they left," said Utu Langi, executive director of the H-5 program Hawaii Helping the Hungry Have Hope.

Yesterday afternoon, it was unclear how many of the 200 displaced homeless would take the mayor up on his invitation to set up camp near the police station beginning last night.

"Some of the people I talked to say they'd love to go there ... a few of them are iffy," Langi said. "I'm hoping it will work out. If not, they're just going to spread all over the place."

Over at the Capitol, the House Housing Committee considered two resolutions requesting studies on using trailer parks or manufactured-housing parks to create more affordable homes.

Because these park sites are less expensive to prepare than subdivisions, the lawmakers said, they could provide an intermediate level of housing between rentals and condominiums and home ownership.

Janice Takahashi, chief planner for the Housing and Community Development Corp. of Hawai'i, said the agency was interested in exploring options but warned that trailer parks might not be the solution.

"Trailer parks are not a magic bullet. They do require some infrastructure," she said. "We don't know what the costs are."

In addition, counties might have to change their zoning regulations to allow trailer parks.

Both HCDCH and the state Department of Hawaiian Homelands also raised concerns about the safety of these homes in the event of a natural disaster.

But Rep. Helene Hale, D-4th (Puna), asked, "Trailer houses on the Mainland are very nice places, really. Why would they be less safe?"

Rep. Cindy Evans, D-7th (N. Kona, S. Kohala), who comes from Illinois, said trailer parks there were the next-cheapest option to renting. The prices stay low because the trailers sit on small lots and less infrastructure is required.

"It was a comfortable lifestyle, but it wasn't glamorous by any means," she said. "It was very simple."

The committee will decide on the two measures on Wednesday.

Reach Treena Shapiro at tshapiro@honoluluadvertiser.com.