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Hawai‘i Awarded $250K Grant for Affordable Housing Project

May 26, 2018, 9:00 AM HST
* Updated May 26, 6:21 AM
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A prototype Accessory Dwelling Unit made of Albizia wood is being completed at UH-Mānoa. PC: DLNR.

The State of Hawai‘i has been awarded a $250,000 USDA Forest Service Wood Innovations grant to help support affordable housing options while reducing wildfire risks and overcoming obstacles to a wood market in the state.

The award will support a three-part project to design and build a prototype Accessory Dwelling Unit using local materials. A prototype structure built from albizia is now in the final stages of completion at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa campus.

“In addition to the abundant supply of albizia, Hawai‘i has millions of board feet of harvestable wood from other tree species, that thus far has not enjoyed much of a market because of the lack of local, large-scale processing facilities and the high cost of shipping lumber out-of-state,” said Joseph Valenti, project leader for the newly formed Hawai‘i Wood Utilization Team, a collaboration of state, university, public and private wood industry experts.

The second stage of the project will design an 800 square-foot Education Center for the Mānā Plain on Kaua‘i that could be used as a template for similar environmental education facilities on public and private lands throughout Hawai‘i, according to State Resource and Survey Forester Philipp LaHaela Walter. Part three of the project funding will be used to create an online Hawai‘i Forest Products Directory.

PC: DLNR

“Existing market research we included in the grant application showed that on O‘ahu alone there is the possibility of nearly 1,400 Accessory Dwelling Units to help address our housing crisis,” DOFAW Administrator David Smith said. “These are separate homes of 400 to 800 square feet that can be built on existing lots of between 3,500 to 5,000 square feet or larger. Three years ago the Hawai‘i State Legislature passed a bill to incentivize scalable and affordable housing alternatives.”

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This is the first time Hawai‘i has been awarded funding from the nationwide program, which will distribute nearly $8 million in grants for projects in 20 states. The grants focus on supporting the removal of hazardous fuels from forests to reduce wildfire risks and promote ecosystem health. Hawai‘iʻs project is one of 34 selected for funding among 119 proposals. The Albizia Project and the Hawai‘i Forest Industry Association are partners in the DLNR/DOFAW project.

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DLNR Chair Suzanne Case commented: “With this crucial funding for wood innovations leadership and communications activities, the construction of the dwelling unit prototype, the design of the education center, and for the creation of the forest products directory we hope this will increase the visibility of and confidence in sustainable wood products and local manufacturing for commercial building markets.”

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