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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Garden Isle struggles with lack of affordable housing

By Coco Zickos
Garden Island

LIHU'E, Kaua'i — Kaua'i Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. says more needs to be done to meet a growing demand for affordable housing.

Even though median home values on Kaua'i have been falling from about $615,000 in November 2008 to $467,500 last month, according to Multiple Listing Services, prices remain unaffordable for many of the island's working class.

"More work needs to be done to address this situation," Carvalho said, during a presentation Thursday on sustainable and affordable housing. The meeting was hosted by Kaua'i Planning & Action Alliance and Kaua'i Association of Architects.

Anne Punohu, of the Kaua'i Fair Housing Law Coalition, said housing on Kaua'i is anything but affordable for most.

"It's no way to live," she added.

A resident would have to earn at least $29 per hour to afford the "most expensive rentals in the nation," where a two-bedroom unit averages $1,500 a month, Carvalho said.

He said no more than 30 percent of a resident's income should be allotted for housing in order to be deemed affordable.

And if the median income on Kaua'i is around $47,000, then 30 percent of take-home pay would amount to around $1,100 a month for a mortgage or rent. In other words, someone making the median income could only afford a $180,000 home, said architect and sustainability consultant Peter Arsenault.

"It is clear that there is some creative financing here," he said Thursday.

Among the recently completed projects adding to the county's affordable housing inventory are 80 units at Kalepa Village in Líhu'e, 82 units at Courtyards at Waipouli and 18 Habitat for Humanity homes in 'Ele'ele.

The trouble is once the projects are completed, it can be a challenge for some kama'äina to qualify, Punohu said Sunday.

"There's nothing affordable about them (the housing projects)," she said.