The Honolulu City Council voted 9-0 Wednesday to approve rezoning for the contentious 11,750-unit Ho‘opili development project in West Oahu.
With a hard-fought rezoning approval in hand, project developer D.R. Horton-Schuler Homes is expected to have its first homes ready for purchase in the next two to three years.
The unanimous vote came after several hours of public testimony for and against the massive project. Councilmembers Ann Kobayashi and Ron Menor voted yes with reservations.
Sandwiched between Kapolei, Ewa, Waipahu and Kunia, Ho’opili sits on 1,554 acres of prime agricultural land. It is the largest rezoning effort to go before the Council in at least two decades.
The D.R. Horton-Schuler Homes project consists of not just the homes, but also commercial and business areas, schools, parks and transit centers.
Supporters maintain that the project will bring needed housing to Oahu, as well as jobs. Opponents argue that the project would permanently displace valuable farmland and exacerbate an already bad traffic situation in the West Oahu region.
In recent years Oahu developers have been required by the city to set aside 30 percent of a project as “affordable housing,” broadly defined as homes priced to be within reach of families that make 140 percent of the island’s median income or less.
As part of Bill 3, the Ho‘opili rezoning request, the Council is requiring the developer to market 30 percent, roughly 3,525 units, of its homes to prospective residents making 120 percent of median or less. The 2014 federal guideline says the median income for an Oahu family of four is $82,400.
The Council is also requiring that a significant percentage of units be made available to buyers making 80 percent of median or less, and that 225 units be rentals.
To address concerns raised by Horton-Schuler about the difficulties in finding buyers who qualify for loans at the lower income levels, the Council agreed to limit the time during which the developer must market the homes to lower-income families.
Concerns about traffic impacts continue to plague the project despite Horton-Schuler’s promise to provide tens of millions of dollars in improvements, including footing the bill for additional lanes in each direction of the H-1 freeway.
The developer also has argued that Ho’opili is designed to be a “live-work-play” community that requires fewer vehicles to make a daily commute into urban Honolulu.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story reported Councilmember Ikaika Anderson voted yes with reservations.