Kailua Residents Debating Affordable Apartments

Sep 9, 2020

Kailua residents are debating a controversial housing project that has split the community in support and opposition. The Honolulu City Council’s zoning committee met yesterday to hear both sides.

Local developer Ahe Group is leading an effort to build a three and four story apartment complex on the corner of Oneawa and Kawainui Streets.

It would provide nearly 70 affordable rental units for households earning between 30 to 50 percent of Oahu’s average median income.

But before the project moves forward, the developer needs a series of exemptions from the city, including from its land use ordinance.

Neighborhood Board Chair Bill Hicks says the panel supports affordable housing – but opposes this project because of its location.

"It’s not consistent with the Koʻolau Poko Sustainable Communities Plan. The R5 lot is zoned for single family homes, and not apartments," he said.

"It will add more cars to congested Oneawa Street, and many environmental impacts are unknown. The general plan calls for low-rise single family residential development, and R5 neighborhoods and this project would not protect the character of the residential Coconut Grove neighborhood."

State Sen. Laura Thielen, who represents Kailua, Lanikai, and Waimanalo, says she backs the project.

She says Kailua is on the forefront of changes happening in the state.

"My generation, who grew up here, many of us could not afford to live in Kailua," she said. "Those of us who could, could only do so with our parents help. Our children cannot afford to live in Kailua even with their parents help. It’s become so popular with Dr. Beach identifying Kailua as a location, with the beefing up of the military and the housing allowances that they have, people buying second homes, people buying retirement homes.

"We are slowly pushing out any ability of renters to live here. 40% of our Hawaiʻi households cannot afford to buy a home. The deck is so stacked against them."

The zoning committee will make a decision on the exemptions at its meeting next week. If approved, they would go to the full council for review.