City officials are moving forward with a modular housing project in Waianae geared toward working homeless and homeless families with children. Crews started surveying the 7,500-square-foot, city-owned lot Monday and could start construction as soon as Friday.
The city has contracted with Hawaii Modular to build three modular housing or compact units on a Halona Road property that the city has owned since 1990 and was once used for recovering substance abusers.
The units, to be equipped with kitchen and bathroom facilities, will cost about $109,000 each. Officials expect work to be completed in September and for tenants to move in during October.
Plans call for a one-bedroom unit compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and two two-bedroom units measuring about 500 square feet each, along with some open space. The city had initially said the units would cost about $35,000 to $50,000 each, but officials found after looking at different options that the chosen contract “provided a very quality and complete unit and is reflected in the price,” said Sandra Pfund, chief of the city Office of Strategic Development. Site work, contracted with Ideal Construction Inc. will cost about $425,000, according to the city.
That work will include clearing overgrowth, removing asbestos from the existing dilapidated seven-bedroom structure, and eventually demolishing it.
The project is not an emergency or transitional shelter but will relocate homeless people from parks and other public areas to permanent housing, the city said. The units will be permanent, but the tenants will be temporary. City officials are also working on a request for proposals to select a service provider to manage the property, help pick tenants and provide services. Pfund said the RFP “has to be fairly given, but consideration of understanding the community will be a factor.”
“We’d like to put up a model and then have the community look at it and look toward improvement as we do it on a larger basis,” Pfund said. “We hope we’ll have a lot of excitement with the community.”
But the proposal, presented to the Waianae Coast Neighborhood Board last year, drew criticism from several residents about the size of the property, as well as potential effects on property values and whether tenants would be screened and monitored to ensure neighborhood safety.
Calvin Endo, a Waianae Coast Neighborhood Board member, said it is not a good idea to place a homeless project in the middle of a residential area. He added that residents expressed concerns over their safety and that tenants would be bringing more cars to the area. Endo, who recalled the city’s presentation at the board meeting, said members have been frustrated because they feel their voices are not being heard.
Resident Faye Crabbe, who lives across the street from the property, however, said she supports the project because the homeless “need to go someplace. They need a chance to change their lives.” Crabbe, 79, inherited her property.
Several community members have also raised concerns about another modular housing project on a 1.1-acre lot on Farrington Highway near Waianae High School that could accommodate 75 to 90 homeless people and cost about $2.3 million. Community members cited safety, traffic and flooding concerns, and maintained that they did not want Waianae to become a draw for the rest of Oahu’s homeless population.
Pfund said the city acquired the Farrington Highway property for $300,000 in April and is developing a conceptual plan. Officials have been working with an advisory committee made up of community members and stakeholders to discuss issues such as social services, programming and the layout of the units, she said.
Twinkle Borge, a leader of the homeless encampment near the Waianae Boat Harbor, said that if tenants are charged no rent or a small amount of money, she thinks families would move in at both the Halona Road and Farrington Highway sites. But she said several of the “houseless” families at Puuhonua O Waianae Village, which houses about 300 people, need help with job development and “don’t want to see themselves be pushed back on the streets.”
“They’re just scared of taking that leap of faith. When you live this way for so long, you become accustomed to it,” Borge said. “We look at the whole thing, not just the housing — getting them jobs, putting them into rehabilitation, seeing about the animals.”
City Councilwoman Kymberly Pine, who represents the Leeward Coast, said the Halona Road project could show how well modular housing works on the Waianae Coast. Regarding the Farrington Highway property, she said the city should not move forward until the community is comfortable with the project.
“The real solution is having these types of units in all districts because the homeless won’t want to come out to Waianae,” Pine said. “We feel very strongly that every community needs to take care of their own homeless population.”