Hilo, Wednesday, November 30, 2011 – The first group of low-income residents will move into the Kaloko Housing units as early as this week, according to HOPE Services Hawaii CEO Brandee Menino.

That’s two years after the initial deadline set to open the transitional and affordable rental housing project above Kaloko Industrial Area on Hina-Lani Street. Forty units have been completed so far, Menino said, 28 for low-income housing, 11 for transitional housing and one for a resident manager.

Mayor Billy Kenoi and Office of Housing and Community Development Stephen Arnett told West Hawaii residents, county employees, HOPE Services Hawaii volunteers and some of West Hawaii’s homeless the $12.4 million project was completed on time and under budget. Arnett made the comments during a grand opening last week at the site, named Na Kaulana O Ulu Wini. Kenoi commented in a written statement prior to the event. Arnett credited a number of people, including his staff, many of whom came to the county from the private sector, for the project’s completion.

“In the private sector, you have a sense of urgency,” Arnett said, referring to how private businesses approach large projects, including construction. “Government typically does not have to worry about interest expense.” His team took a private sector approach to construction, cutting costs wherever possible, he said.

Kenoi commented on the end result: “Let’s not put up four walls and a roof and say, ‘At least it’s something,'” Kenoi said. “It’s so beautiful. It’s quality construction.” As of this year, “Kona has a whole series of housing that didn’t exist a few years ago,” he added, citing recently completed projects like the West Hawaii Emergency shelter in Kailua-Kona and the Kaloko project.

He also referred to the Waikoloa Workforce Housing project, where model homes were unveiled last week. That project has been delayed, in part, by litigation and contract disputes between the county and its contractor.

In 2008, former Mayor Harry Kim declared the Kaloko Housing project the county’s number one priority for his final year in office. Late that year, Office of Housing and Community Development staff said the transitional and affordable housing could be available by the end of 2009.

Early in Kenoi’s administration, the expected construction start date was set as early as 2010, with completion estimated by early 2011. Along the way, the county lost about $1.45 million in state funding, when the Hawaii Public Housing Authority submitted a revised project application just six days before the funds were set to lapse.

At a groundbreaking ceremony in June 2010, officials said the project would be serving West Hawaii residents by August 2011.

The Environmental Protection Agency told Hawaii County several years ago that it must close the Kawaihae Transitional Housing, because that project used gang cesspools, which were no longer permissible. The buildings from that site were moved last week to Puna, where they will be remodeled and used for emergency housing.

Officials discussed the project over the sounds of ongoing site work. Arnett noted the county does not have all of the money for vertical construction for the remaining 56 units, so the county decided to complete the groundwork for future construction phases. He said he hoped to see construction begin on the next 20 to 24 units early next year.

Inside the units, natural light shone through windows offering what Arnett described as “million dollar views” of the Kona coastline. Two units were available for the public to tour, one decorated, the other empty. Each unit is about 750 square feet in size. Families meeting the federal Housing and Urban Development income requirements will pay $419 a month, plus utilities, to live in the apartments, Menino said. Families qualifying for transitional housing will pay $400 a month, utilities included, she added.

The state caps stays in transitional housing at 24 months, but HOPE Services Hawaii works with residents in three-month increments to try to help the residents move to permanent housing, Menino said.

The complex also has laundry facilities, a common kitchen and meeting area, office space for HOPE Services Hawaii, where case workers will be available to help residents, and a multipurpose room. The buildings have photovoltaic film to generate solar electricity, Arnett said.

Watch HOPE’s video:

Erin Miller . “Kaloko Housing units to open”Hawaii Tribune Herald, 30 Nov. 2011.http://www.hawaiitribune-herald.com/sections/news/community/kaloko-housing-units-open.html