Editorial | Island Voices Na Lei housing contract a good deal By Craig Y. Watase April 25, 2018 Mahalo for supporting Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Enjoy this free story! On April 12, the Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corp.’s board met and took action that allowed Na Lei Hulu Kupuna, an affordable apartment building for seniors in Kakaako, to reinstate a Rental Assistance Program (RAP) contract. Read more Mahalo for reading the Honolulu Star-Advertiser! You're reading a premium story. Read the full story with our Print & Digital Subscription. Subscribe Now Read this story for free: Watch an ad or complete a survey Log In Already a subscriber? Log in now to continue reading this story. Activate Digital Account Print subscriber but without online access? Activate your Digital Account now. On April 12, the Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corp.’s board met and took action that allowed Na Lei Hulu Kupuna, an affordable apartment building for seniors in Kakaako, to reinstate a Rental Assistance Program (RAP) contract. While it may seem a simple outcome, to make this happen required great effort and coordination from many people, including Gov. David Ige, Sen. Brickwood Galuteria, House Speaker Scott Saiki, HHFDC and the Hawaii Community Development Authority. Also, credit my tenants’ activism so that they are now able to get up to $250 per month in rental assistance. As the developer/new owner, we at Mark Development had set aside funds so that my existing tenants’ share of the rent would remain the same for one year. The RAP contract means that my funds will be leveraged, and I can promise my tenants that their share of the rent will not go up at least up to the end of 2019. The RAP may be renewed after it expires, so that our existing tenants would have assistance for a long time. The recent article, “Rent subsidy deal worries affected seniors” (Star-Advertiser, April 14), and subsequent editorial, “Ensure long-term sustainability of affordable rentals” (Our View, April 19), failed to mention the full extent of commitments communicated to the tenants at an April 13 on-site meeting, which was organized by Galuteria and Saiki. Meanwhile, Na Lei seniors now understand that the new rents are for new incoming tenants. And thanks to Mayor Kirk Caldwell and City Council members, a $3.85 million Affordable Housing Fund (AHF) grant will allow us to repair years of deferred maintenance on the Na Lei Hulu Kupuna building. Exterior painting and remodeling, elevator modernization, new flooring, appliances, bathrooms, cabinets and furniture are some of the improvements to be undertaken — without raising existing tenants’ share of rent. The new land use restrictions commit this building as affordable housing for another 60 years. The old restrictions were to expire in a few years. The old rent targets were for all 75 apartment units to be affordable to seniors earning up to 60 percent of the AMI (area median income). Now, two apartments are rented at 60 percent AMI, 53 apartments at 50 percent AMI and 20 apartments at 40 percent AMI. We have committed to serving even lower-income seniors than previously required. Also, as part of the AHF grant, we have committed 20 apartments to be available to the city’s “Housing First” program to support the city’s efforts to help the homeless. As an affordable housing developer and property manager, Mark Development reaffirms our commitment to HCDA that none of our existing tenants will be displaced because of the acquisition of this project from the state last December. This is a story of the preservation and rehabilitation of 75 fully furnished studios for low-income seniors. It has a happy ending because of the hard work and caring by government employees, elected officials and residents. And I sure do appreciate the Star-Advertiser letting me set the record straight. Craig Y. Watase is president of Mark Development, Inc., long-time manager and now owner of Na Lei Hulu Kupuna. Previous Story Bills advance fight against sexual assault Next Story What will happen if TMT is not built on Mauna Kea?