Groundbreaking Held for Low-Income Senior Rentals
by Dave Smith
A groundbreaking was held in Hilo Thursday for a 60-unit rental housing project designed for low-income seniors.
The Mohouli Heights Senior Neighborhood is located on county land at the intersection of Komohana and Mohouli Streets.
The project will provide apartments for seniors whose incomes are below 30-50% of the Hawaii County median, as determined by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.
According to the Hawaii Island Community Development Corporation, which helped establish Mohouli Heights, the tenants’ share of the monthly rent will be approximately 30 percent of their monthly income.
The organization’s executive director, Keith Kato, said there is an ongoing need for low-income senior housing on the Big Island.
Kato said this will be the seventh low-income senior rental project on the Big Island organized by the non-profit corporation. The six completed so far total 188 units and include three facilities in Kona and others in Waimea and Kapaau, and the 30-unit Kinoole Senior Residences in Hilo.
“All the projects have wait lists,” he said.
Kato said a recent review of the tenants of his organization’s projects show that 80 percent of them pay rent of less than $200 a month.
According to a 2011 study done for the Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corporation, the average apartment rent on the Big Island last year was $861 a month.
Construction has already begun on the Mohouli Heights project which will consist of 11 buildings containing 567-square-foot, one-bedroom units.
The project is being funded through a collaboration of private investors with the assistance of a variety of government agencies providing an assortment of loans and tax credits.
In exchange for the government assistance, the rents will remain affordable for a term of 61 years.
Kato said the cooperation of federal, state and county agencies was critical to making the project work. The private investment comes from HHF Equity Fund VI, LLC, which is made up of Bank of Hawaii, First Hawaiian Bank and Island Insurance.
Kato said the Hawaii Island Community Development Corporation hopes to eventually secure financing to build an additional 90 units at Mohouli Heights.
There is also enough room on the 15-acre county parcel to build a new Hilo Adult Day Center, should any problems arise with the center’s current location at the old Hilo Memorial Hospital on Rainbow Drive.
In addition to Kato’s group, other organizations taking part in the project include the state Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corporation, Hawaii County, the Rural Community Assistance Corporation and HUD.
“Public-private partnerships like this are essential to producing affordable housing,” HHFDC Executive Director Karen Seddon said in a statement announcing the project.
The contractor for the project is Heartwood Pacific, LLC. Construction is expected to be completed in about a year.