Work progressing ‘smoothly’ on Mohouli Heights senior housing

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald Keith Kato stands near the entrance of third phase of the Mohouli Heights Senior Neighborhood as construction work continues Thursday in Hilo.
  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald Construction work continues Thursday on the third phase of the Mohouli Heights Senior Neighborhood in Hilo.

Work on the third phase of the Mohouli Heights Senior Neighborhood is well underway — on budget and on schedule for a fall 2020 opening.

“Construction’s moving along quite well,” said Keith Kato, executive director of the Hawaii Island Community Development Corporation. Things have been “running quite smoothly” and good weather means the contractor has “made good progress.”

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Work began on the $38 million HICDC project earlier this year. Plans call for the construction of 92 affordable housing units for low-income seniors 62 and older who qualify for Section 8 rental assistance.

Kato said the project has three pairs of residential buildings.

Roof framing has been completed on the first pair, mauka side closest to Mohouli Street, while roof framing is underway now for the second pair, he said. Framing on the first floor is just now being finished on the third pair, located makai side of the property.

Overall, Kato said the work is approximately 40 percent complete.

“This third phase basically completes the Mohouli complex,” he said. “There’s a small piece (of property) left we’ll probably use for some senior-related function.”

The first 60-unit phase was completed in 2013 and an additional 30-units were completed in 2016 as part of the second phase.

Kato said those units are full and there are waiting lists to get in.

“A lot of our clients are very low income, and for them it’s just very difficult to find housing they can afford,” he said when asked about the necessity of low-income senior housing.

Although it’s hard to quantify the need, Kato said, “I think the best indicator is the wait list we have for the existing projects. Both (are) over 100 names long. So there’s quite a bit of need …”

But people who move into the Mohouli complex, move out of other units, which free those up for others in the community, he said.

Kato said the county Office of Housing will begin accepting applications from prospective tenants for the new development early next year.

Mohouli Heights is a collaboration between HICDC, the state, Hawaii County and banking partners Wells Fargo and Bank of Hawaii.

“This kind of project is really possible because of the help and cooperation we get from the county and state,” Kato said. “Without that, it would be much more difficult.”

The Mohouli Heights complex also includes the recently-completed Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Adult Day Center, developed through a partnership between HICDC an Hawaii Island Adult Care.

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HICDC is a Hilo-based nonprofit that aims to help low to moderate income Big Island residents obtain affordable housing.

Email Stephanie Salmons at ssalmons@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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