Keeping Art in Community, Permanently

Jan 4, 2019

Ola Ka 'Ilima is an affordable rental apartment/work space development for artists. Located at 1025 Waimanu Street, the project includes gallery and performance space, a courtyard, parking, and community areas. The project is co-owned by EAH Housing and Artspace, which will be the managing partner. Deadline to apply, January 22, 2019, but a roster of eligible applicants will be kept for future vacancies.
Credit Noe Tanigawa

Artspace Projects is a growing national non-profit that uses low income tax credits to build housing artists can afford to rent.  They are experts at keeping creatives in neighborhoods that are gentrifying beyond reach.  That has proven to be a strategy that cities, including Honolulu, are eager to try.  HPR’s Noe Tanigawa reports.

Naomi Chu is Vice President of Asset Management with Artspace Projects, a non-profit creating affordable living spaces for artists since 1979. Her role is to encourage creative and productive use of the spaces once they are up.
Credit Noe Tanigawa

Ola Ka ‘Ilima Artspace Lofts rental application

Deadline to submit application for lottery:  1/22/19

Housing Lottery Drawing:  1/29/19  

Individual interviews with qualified applicants will follow.

Note:  Applicants can earn no more than 60% AMI.  According to HUD, Honolulu's 2018 AMI is $96,000. 

Naomi Chu is Vice President of Asset Management with Artspace Projects, a non-profit creating affordable living spaces for artists since 1979. 

Chu:  I’ve been at Artspace now, 21 years.  It used to be artists saying, We need help, we need a space.  Now it’s more like mayors, cities, and states going, You guys have a model!  We need consulting, we need advice, or we need you to come in and do this project. 

Chu says their work is arts and culture focused, because that focus builds better communities.

Chu:  Our vision is arts and culture focused.  It is a combination of a really thoughtful process, and the patience to work through that process to do it right.  We do our best to get it right, and sometimes that takes a little longer.  I’m so excited for what Ola Ka ‘Ilima will be.

(l-r)Andrew Neuman is Urbanworks' project designer for Ola Ka 'Ilima. He stands with Kumu Hula Vicky Holt Takamine who instigated this development ten years ago by inviting Artspace to town. They are standing in the future home of Takamine's hula halau, Pua Ali'i 'Ilima.
Credit Noe Tanigawa

For the Ola Ka ‘Ilima Project in Kaka‘ako, it’s been ten years since Vicky Holt Takamine and the Pa’i Foundation invited Artspace to town.  First, a market study confirmed the need for artist housing, then, a site was found.  Financing was arranged through federal and state low income housing tax credits and state rental housing revolving funds, and $3.3 million was secured from the State over 3 years.  Help from Honolulu City, National Endowment for the Arts, Ford Foundation, Atherton Family Foundation, Cook Family Foundation, Ward Village Foundation and Art Place, a national funding foundation, filled in the gaps.

Applications are available now.  Deadline for submission is January 22nd.    

HUD requirements set eligibility at 30, 50 and 60% of the Honolulu area median income, which is $96,000.  AMI ---50% of the 2018 Honolulu AMI of $96,000 would be $58,300 a year for a family of four. 

One bedrooms will start at under $600, and prices max out at $1671 for a 3-bedroom.

Chu:  I’m super excited to be at this phase of the project.  It takes vision, it take community, and we may have the expertise in terms of physically developing, and we bring our best knowledge and passion to the communities we create, but it does not happen without local support.  Everyone’s all in, because developments aren’t easy.  We’re not for profit.  We’re not trying to make any money here.  We just want good, solid, safe and sustainable housing.

Credit Urbanworks

Chu:  Our projects are in perpetuity.  We have no intention of ever flipping or selling.  We are not your typical developer here, even though we’re from the mainland.  We know we’re from the mainland.  In all the communities we work in, we’re from the outside, but it is because we’re welcomed in and it is because people learn and grow to just know when we say this is what we’re here to do, there is no other agenda.  We create good, safe affordable housing for artists.  And in my work in the Asset Team, it’s really helping foster and sustain that community.   

What’s fascinating is, with the low income requirements, perhpas truly new and perhaps truly different sorts of arts and artists will be encouraged.  This development will bring together 84 artists, some with families, along with the home for Vicky Holt Takamine's halau, Pua Ali'i Ilima on the ground floor. 

The dynamism of the ensemble is impossible to predict, as is the effect this development will have on the surrounding community.   Chu says past projects have encouraged coffee shops, diners, bars, supply stores, bookshops, and other creative enterprises to pop up in the area.  She emphasizes, the term “artist” is broadly defined, including all creative and cultural activity by any member of the family.  

Chu:  How do you define an artist?  What does it mean to be an artist?  It’s so important we share this message:  We define art broadly, inclusively.  All art forms.  That’s why we’re particularly clear here, that it’s artists, artists and culture bearers.

Chu:  This means it could be tattoo artists, writers, poets, dancers, singers, musicians, graphic designers, architects…If you’re at all thinking about it, I encourage you to apply.  Application is free.

EAH Housing, a national housing agency, will co-own the project with Artspace, which will be the managing partner.  On January 29, a lottery will assign numbers to applicants and EAH will help them nail down eligibility documentation. 

Chu:  EAH staff have the expertise to know which forms and how to get the right information to verify the income.  Once that’s done, if people income qualify, then they’ll be passed to Artist Selection.  That’s just a simple, I shouldn’t say simple, because some people get a little nervous, but it should be fun.

The Artist Selection panel will consist of 3-5 community members and Artspace representatives.  They are tasked with selecting the 84 artists who will become a part of the development.  

Chu:  The artist just sits down, or stands, or performs, whatever the artist wants to do but it’s going through a series of nine questions, they’re easy, mostly around sharing your art form, knowing we do not judge the artwork. 

The same nine questions will be asked of each candidate, the questions are not available prior.  The interviews are expected to take about half an hour.

Chu:  Get in the application if you’re a creative person in any realm.  Even if you don’t think you qualify, you should apply, there is no fee to apply.