A home for the holidays is a gift that can seem next to impossible here in the islands, especially for those of us with limited budgets. Affordable housing remains one of the biggest issues facing Hawaiʻi residents. But one organization is dedicating a home this holiday season, and vows to build more homes than ever in the coming years. HPR’s Kuʻuwehi Hiraishi has this story.
68-year-old Leve Watson remembers wanting to have a home ever since he was a little boy growing up in Palama.
“Our family was interested in going and getting a home and it was exciting,” says Palama, “Unfortunately, that didn’t work out but all my life I’ve always wanted a home. “
Watson got that chance by working with affordable housing non-profit Habitat for Humanity Honolulu. The organization offers affordable housing options to low-income residents through a combination of zero-interest mortgages and a host of volunteer labor.
“I found it most rewarding. First of all to come to know people that share of their time, talents and their energies,” says Watson.
Nearly 400 volunteers put in over 3,000 volunteer hours on Watson’s 2-bedroom, 1-bathroom home in Kāneʻohe. Honolulu Habitat’s Executive Director Jim Murphy says Watson’s home is the 78th house the organization has built since they began in 1988.
“Which means that we’ve been building at an average of two point something a year,” says Murphy, “And while that is incredibly impactful to the families that are living in those houses, it’s not really doing anything to solve the affordable housing issues here on Oʻahu.”
Honolulu Habitat is one of two Habitats serving Oʻahu. They service everywhere east of Kūnia Road, including North Shore, Windward Oʻahu, and all of Honolulu.
“We feel that it’s our mission to step-up our game a little bit and build more and be more creative about how we do it.,” says Murphy, “So we set a goal to build 40 houses in five years, starting in 2018. “
Murphy says the biggest challenge was finding potential homeowners but the numbers are growing.
“We know now that we’ve gone out to the community at large that we’ve got 12 families that we’ve got approved for projects in the coming year or so, and another 20 families in the process and those are just families that we’ve identified,” says Murphy, “We know that there are dozens more of them.”
Honolulu Habitat will be using Watson’s recently completed home as an opportunity to bring in potential Habitat families. TJ Joseph is Honolulu Habitat’s Operations Manager.
“What we’d like to do is called a Home Preview – it’s the opportunity for anyone in the community, especially those who are applying with us to see a finished Habitat home,” says Joseph.
The home preview is set for Thursday and home dedication set for Saturday. As for Watson, he’s been spending the past week packing up his old apartment and preparing for the big move.
“I must admit I’m very scared. But I guess I’ll make my adjustments. Realize that it’s a blessing,” says Watson, “Just being so grateful to having a home. It’s a home! Finally! A home.”