Demand high for final phase of Hilo senior housing project

  • STEPHANIE SALMONS/Tribune-Herald The third phase of the Mohouli Heights Senior Neighborhood is nearly finished, months ahead of schedule.

The third and final phase of the Mohouli Heights Senior Neighborhood in Hilo is nearly finished, months ahead of schedule.

Keith Kato, executive director of the Hawaii Island Community Development Corporation, said work on the development is about 90% complete.

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The project, which was originally scheduled to be finished in August, “looks like it’ll be complete in April,” he said.

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

There are three pairs of residential buildings.

“Early on, they had a stretch of really good weather, so that helped,” said Kato, who added that the contractor’s “just very organized, so they have a good team going over there.”

County Housing Administrator Duane Hosaka said Wednesday that the wait list for the 92 units of the new Mohouli Heights construction is around 400 people — and growing.

“Any low-income project, whether it’s senior or regular low-income housing, is important,” he said.

Kato said the number of applicants “pretty well speaks to the need for the project and others in the future.”

According to Kato, the project also remains on budget.

“It’s been quite a smooth-running project, with very little changes.”

Mohouli Heights is a collaboration between HICDC — a Hilo-based nonprofit that assists low-to-moderate income Big Island residents obtain affordable housing — the state, Hawaii County and banking partners Wells Fargo and Bank of Hawaii.

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

HICDC also has other projects underway.

According to Kato, the organization offers a “self-help housing” initiative, where families do a portion of the construction, “so sweat equity becomes their down payment.”

Ten such units are currently under construction in Pepeekeo, with another 10 to follow in the next few months.

Construction of the final 10 in that development will start in the summer.

Another 20 self-help housing units are planned in Hawaiian Paradise Park.

HICDC also is working to construct an additional 100 two- and three-bedroom low income apartment units just off of Hina Lani Street in Kailua-Kona.

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Kato said the nonprofit is “pretty confident” it will start construction on that project in the fall.

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

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