Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024|
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About 35 acres of state land around Hilo and Kalaoa will be set aside to Hawaii County for affordable housing development.
At Friday’s meeting of the state Board of Land and Natural Resources, the board voted to approve a 2022 request by Mayor Mitch Roth to transfer management of eight disparate parcels of urban-designated land around the island to the county.
Four of the eight parcels are small residential lots around Waiakea Uka in Hilo, mostly disconnected from each other but loosely concentrated around Ainaola Drive near the Waiakea Uka Gym.
Another parcel is a roughly two-acre plot on Kaumana Drive near the Kaumana Caves, while a sixth lot is a nearly four-acre site on Lahi Street, nestled between existing neighborhoods near Akolea Road.
The remaining two parcels are in Kalaoa in West Hawaii, not far from the Kona International Airport. One of those parcels accounts for the bulk of the properties’ total acreage, measuring roughly 23.7 acres.
Harry Yada, assistant housing administrator for the county Office of Housing and Community Development, told the BLNR on Friday that the parcels have been specifically targeted by the county to help address the island’s lack of affordable housing units.
“Affordable housing continues to be a very great problem for the state, and in Hawaii County we’re no different,” Yada said. “We keep trying to chip away at building more inventory of affordable housing.”
While the board voted to approve the transfer of land Friday, it did not do so unanimously.
Oahu board member Aimee Barnes voted against the county’s request following complaints by the state Department of Agriculture, which has argued that the large Kalaoa parcel is too close to an agricultural park and could expose residents to chemical pesticides.
“I’m a huge supporter of and advocate for affordable housing,” Barnes said. “I’m also a huge supporter of and advocate for children not being exposed to harmful pesticides, which seems to be the nature of the DOA’s concerns.”
Yada said the county, when developing affordable housing on these parcels, will be required to adhere to Department of Health regulations.
The BLNR voted 5-2 to approve the county’s request, with members Barnes and Kaiwi Yoon opposing it.
Email Michael Brestovansky at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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