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City’s plans to sell housing raises fears

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    The Rev. Sam Domingo spoke yesterday during a news conference at the Chinatown Sun Yat-sen statue in downtown Honolulu. Residents of city-owned affordable housing are concerned over the city's plans to sell the 12 properties in the near future.

Residents at the city’s apartment buildings expressed worries yesterday that their housing won’t be so affordable because the city is preparing to sell the projects to private companies.

In his State of the City address this year, Mayor Peter Carlisle said the city is developing plans to offer the properties to companies who would "continue to operate those properties under existing terms of affordability."

"We must continually uphold conditions in any future sale that these residents will be able to stay in their homes and appropriate mechanisms are set up to protect affordability," said Cat Wong, president of Ohana Housing Network Oahu and a resident of Chinatown Gateway Plaza.

Wong said the previous city administration did not include residents in discussions over the proposed property sale and that the residents just want to make sure Carlisle doesn’t do the same. She said the group wants a residents’ advisory panel to be in effect throughout the bidding process.

Residents will have plenty of opportunity to air out concerns, especially since the City Council will have the final say on to whom the city will sell the properties, said city Department of Community Services Director Sam Moku.

"Everyone will have ample amount of opportunity to voice opinions and concerns before the final decision," Moku said.

The city loses about $3 million a year managing the properties, Moku said.

"We don’t do a good job at managing these properties, and we are losing money," he said. "We want to make sure that the people who know how to do this work are able to provide good services for these families and the potential of good renovations for the affordable properties."

Moku said there is the possibility that private companies could raise housing rates, but that the companies would have to adhere to guidelines set by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

"We do want renovations to occur, because they are needed, and that will be part of the negotiations," Moku said.

He said there are ways in which an investor can figure out a financing mechanism to include renovations so the work would not necessarily lead to higher rates.

"If the city is moving that direction, we support them if it’s done the right away," Wong said.

The city’s 12 properties have a total of 1,257 units. They are Bachelors Quarters, Chinatown Gateway Plaza, Chinatown Manor, Harbor Village, Kanoa Apartments, Kulana Nani, Manoa Gardens, Marin Tower, Pauahi Hale, West Loch Elderly, Westlake Apartments and Winston Hale.

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