Officials present grant to low-income apartment complex in Pahoa

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald Nani O Puna Apartments in Pahoa

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald

    Nani O Puna Apartments residents Tania Silva and Bryson Gonsalves smile as their son, Mekhi Gonsalves, 1, gets a high five Wednesday during the Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines presentation at the apartment complex in Pahoa.

A low-income apartment complex in Pahoa received a $750,000 grant Wednesday to help pay for much-needed renovations.

Representatives of the Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines and First Hawaiian Bank met at Nani O Puna Apartments in Pahoa to present the check and speak about the importance of funding low-income housing.

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The grant was the culmination of a multi-year application process through the Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines. Scott Settle, founder of AHED Foundation — which supports housing relief for low-income, elderly and handicapped communities in Hawaii — said the foundation first applied for the grant in 2017, but was denied.

The Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines eventually did approve the grant after a second application last year.

The grant was awarded through the bank’s Affordable Housing Program, in which partner organizations such as First Hawaiian Bank work with local housing providers to support and provide funding for low-income developments throughout the Federal Home Loan Bank’s service area.

“This one just really hit all the right buttons,” said Mike Wilson, president and CEO of the Federal Home Loan Bank, explaining that the complex’s size and location made it ideal for the Affordable Housing Program.

The grant will be used to pay for renovations at the 32-unit apartment complex that was built in 1976. The complex has many deferred maintenance projects that need to be addressed, said Monika Mordasini Rossen, vice president of development at AHED Foundation.

In particular, Rossen said, the complex’s parking lot will require resurfacing, its stairways and railings need to be repaired, its windows must be replaced, a perimeter fence must be installed, and the interiors of its units need to be renovated.

All told, Rossen said, renovations will cost about $2 million, part of which will be paid for by the grant and the remainder by housing assistance through the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Settle said the project has been difficult to get off the ground because funding for small developments in rural areas is frequently hard to secure. Rossen added that state funding for public housing typically goes toward new developments, rather than maintaining older ones.

Securing the grant, however, will be the catalyst to finally complete the long-awaited Nani O Puna renovation project, Settle said.

Mayor Harry Kim, who also attended the presentation, said the grant, and the Affordable Housing Program in general, is important for what it can do for people in underserved areas.

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“I believe we shouldn’t just tuck away public housing where people can’t see it,” Kim said. “I think it’s great to be able to do this for those who need help.”

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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