Hawaii housing authority prepares for pipeline of large-scale redevelopment efforts with high
As one of only three state-wide public housing agencies in the nation, the Hawaii Public Housing Authority (HPHA) plays a major role in the health and safety of a diverse group of lowincome residents. Leveraging federal and state public housing properties, as well as the Rent Supplement and Housing Choice Voucher programs, HPHA has helped Hawaii's most vulnerable obtain safe and stable housing since 1935.
The agency serves over 40,000 residents and maintains a portfolio of 6,200 public housing units. The HPHA also runs portfolio of 6,200 public housing units. The HPHA also runs 3,000 units through the Federal PBCA program. Unfortunately, this is not enough to meet the growing demand for lowincome housing across the state. With the intent of expanding its portfolio to meet these needs, HPHA sought to identify opportunities for growth and expansion.
"When I started with the agency, our goal was to make sure that all of our units are occupied ... But because of the tremendous amount of need for affordable housing, we made a decision about four years ago to identify properties that we could redevelop," says Hakim Ouansafi, HPHA's Executive Director. "We were able to identify nine projects that will net us an additional 10,000 units for this purpose. We are currently delivering on our schedule, with three ongoing projects at different stages of readiness."
HPHA's robust development team is moving ahead on those three redevelopment efforts-School Street, Kuhio Park Terrace and Mayor Wright Homes-to help build a better Hawaii.
PUTTING RESIDENTS FIRST
Above all else, Ouansafi says HPHA is about putting residents and community first. All development efforts require lengthy discussions with the community and resident input. Being unequivocally clear about its resident-first expectations, Ouansafi says, has helped HPHA attract like-minded developers and partners from across the nation.
"Everything we've done and are doing centers around the residents and the community. In all our RFQs and RFPs, we have made it clear that consultation with the community is essential and a must," he says. "If you look at a copy of our RFOs, community engagement is mentioned more than 30 times at all the levels ... Similarly, we have made it a condition for our developer partners that they have a robust plan approved by us for our tenants."
This value of HPHA's goes far beyond the surface. The organization works with partners like EJP Consulting Group to conduct feasibility studies, housing strategies, portfolio assessments and more to find solutions that best serve its residents. The agency also recently worked with the University of Hawaii to conduct an independent study specifically on its properties in order to learn more about residents' needs and desires. HPHA will implement the findings-many of which were new discoveries for the team-into existing and future developments to build stronger communities.
HPHA's resident-first focus is also apparent in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The agency built an entirely new website to serve as a resource hub for residents, where they can find information about new services and safety initiatives. A few key response initiatives include distributing masks, sanitizers and soap to residents, arranging for free WiFi at its communities, stopping evictions, reducing minimum rent and calculating utility allowances. And, through it all, HPHA has not stopped its redevelopment plans.
"We just changed from face-to-face meeting to using technology, and we haven't stopped, Ouansafi says. "Our progress continues, so we are on time to be shovel-ready for many of our projects.
A COLLECTIVE EFFORT
HPHA's first three redevelopment projects are ready to begin in the next few years, generating nearly 4,000 mixed-income units on public housing properties.
The School Street Redevelopment is taking place on the site of HPHA's administrative offices, where excess land is available. HPHA is downsizing its office building and using the excess land to build 800 units of affordable senior housing with nonprofit development partner Retirement Housing Foundation. Another redevelopment, Kuhio Park Terrace, is approaching phase two. In partnership with Michael's Development, HPHA first renovated 400 units of public housing. In the second phase, they will demolish 190 units and replace them with approximately 560 units of mixed-income affordable housing.
The third redevelopment, Mayor Wright Homes, is the largest of those planned thus far. The $1.3 billion redevelopment will result in the demolition and one-for-one replacement of 364 public housing units, along with nearly 2,200 more mixedincome apartments serving affordable, workforce and market-rate populations. The 2,500 units will be housed in four high-rise towers along with 80,000 square feet of commercial space. Hunt Companies is the lead developer partner on the redevelopment.
In future years, HPHA will continue to focus on the remaining six large-scale redevelopments, working toward that goal of 10,000 new units for Hawaii. Ouansafi says the agency's efforts have tremendous support, especially from the state's legislative members, who understand the pressing need for updated and stable housing. "We have really good support from the state legislature and from the governor. The [current governor) and the previous one are very good supporters of the housing authority, and the legislature has always been very supportive," Ouansafi says. "Both the House and Senate have given us millions of dollars, and each year they continue to give us additional funds. Without all of that and their assistance, we wouldn't have been able to get where we are and where we're going."
EJP Consulting Group, LLC is delighted to bring our national experience as a collaborative development advisor to HPHA as they work to provide desperately needed affordable housing in Honolulu. Together, we have negotiated advantageous master planning and predevelopment agreements unique for the industry with three different developers for the redevelopment of Mayor Wright Homes, School Street and Kuhio Park Low rises. These will each create impactful high quality mixed-income communities while preserving units for very low income households. We congratulate HPHA on its progress and are excited to celebrate ground breakings in the future with HPHA and its partners.