City fields concerns over planned low-income housing project in Makiki

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A Housing First project in the heart of town is set to be finished in early next year but the city is defending the project’s future residents already.

Housing First is a program meant to get low income families off the streets.

But a property the city is currently renovating in Makiki has drawn both praise and criticism from people that live in the area.

Safety concerns and lack of parking have been just a few of the issues discussed.

By last count there were over 7,900 homeless people in the state. Over 4,000 of those people live on Oahu. With the city’s Housing First program the aim is to get some of these families off the streets and into affordable housing. But the question is where?

The city purchased the former Loveland Academy in Makiki for just that purpose. It is spending $5.5 million on the property, with another $6 million budgeted for renovations. The project will turn the former school into a 41-unit low income Housing First apartment complex with an on site property manager.

Some residents, like Elliot Wan Wie, embrace the idea, “If we’re going to help these people, this is the most effective way to do it according to the experts. In us taking the first step in my neighborhood is something it can be proud of. I want us to do it, and I know that it’s going to help people.”

Other residents have voiced concerns about things like safety and lack of parking. KHON2 brought these concerns to the City and were referred to a letter given to the city council back in May. As far as safety, the city says, “Ilegal activities should always be reported to police, and low-income residents are not singled out to be any greater of a threat to public safety than the general population.”

Makiki resident and neighborhood board member Sam Mitchell said he was caught off guard by the announcement that the project would be turned into low income housing. “The way it was done, just put it in the newspaper. Here we go. We’re going to do this. That might be the easiest way to do things but it’s not the best way to do things, and we’re trying to fix that.”

With the project moving forward some residents still have concerns, but only time will tell if the neighborhood will embrace the housing first and low income mission the city is pushing. “I think they will like it. I think when people realize that the homeless people that we’re talking about are normal every day people not people with drug problems or alcoholics. They are normal people with jobs that pay minimum-wage.”

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