Hawai'i Island has had housing shortages for years. When hundreds of homes were destroyed in the lava flow this spring and summer, that problem got worse. The county government has been taking steps to help — including a housing fair later this month.
Hawai'i County's housing stock has been in short supply for years. Lower cost rentals are especially tight as the population has grown and some of the previously-available long term rentals have been put into vacation rentals. Losing 600 homes in the lava flow did not help.
Darryl Oliveira has served as the county's Fire Chief and Civil Defense Administrator. Now he's in the private sector with HPM Building Supply, and working with the County to address the problem.
"We got a housing fair coming up, about rebuilding our community, designed to provide a forum for residents, both those affected as well as those looking to help rebuild the community, come out and get information about rebuilding, housing, building permits, insurance, financing, the works."
A frequent complaint: the cumbersome nature of the Hawai'i County building permit process. But now, the County has agreed to pre-approve plans for specific home models provided by local retailers – and not just for victims of the lava flow.
"It's a collaboration, industry working together with the code officials coming up with pre-approved home packages, ways that can streamline and expedite permitting that makes housing within reach. Many of the affected residents in Puna had received an insurance settlement, maybe a FEMA grant. They are looking for opportunities to rebuild and trying to do it cost effectively. This is about making affordable housing available for our whole island."
Merrick Nishimoto is the Deputy Director for County Public Works
"Even before this lava eruption, we were trying to make the building permit process more efficient and easier. Now this event has given us renewed vigor to get this process going. We're working in partnership with the private sector. We're seeing this as a long term journey, to make this island a better place for the people to live, better place for people to work, better place for people to visit."
The Kukulu Hou Housing Fair will feature information sessions on low-interest loans, the building permit process and the basics of home buying. Help will also be available with insurance, information about available rentals, and more. There will a chance to talk with experts from the real estate and loan industries, FEMA, the Veterans Administration, and other government agencies. Plus, there's a Keiki Fun Zone.
The Housing Fair is this Saturday, November 17th at Kea'au High School from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m.