Wednesday | June 03, 2015
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Lanakila housing to get makeover

By HUNTER BISHOP

Tribune-Herald Staff Writer

More money will be needed to complete the makeover of Lanakila Housing units.

A legislative assistant to state Sen. Gil Kanahele (Dist. 1, Hilo) said Tuesday that the state low-income public housing project could cost nearly 50 percent more than the amount released earlier this month by Gov. Neil Abercrombie.

Kahele, who lived in Lanakila Housing as a child, has made completing the renovation of housing units in the project one of his key legislative priorities. “It was a great place to grow up,” said Kanahele. “When I look back, it was a successful project. Appropriating the proper funds and financial support for Lanakila Homes has always been one of my top priorities.”

The state removed tenants from the now dilapidated, weed-infested housing units in the area known as “block 4” more than a decade ago,” Kahele said. “The units were still in good shape.”

Last year the Legislature approved $7.5 million to renovate the housing. Kahele took Abercrombie on a tour of the Lanakila Homes Public Housing project last June, and Abercrombie released the funds on April 12. “After 10 or 12 years, it’s a step in the right direction,” Kahele said.

Last year Abercrombie allocated $750,000 for design of the project.

Kahele recently met with state Public Housing Authority Director Hakim Quansafi, who told him the agency is looking at a July groundbreaking for the work.

But the $7.5 million won’t be enough to do the job, said Micah Alameda, Kahele’s legislative assistant. Revised estimates to remodel 74 units say it will cost from $10.6 million to $11 million, Alameda said. For the time being, however, “They’ll do all they can with the funding they have. We’re hoping to get shovels in the ground this summer,” he said.

Kanahele said Quansafi promised that the agency would “try its best” to maximize the use of the funds. Quansafi declined to answer questions about the project on Tuesday.

Qualified low-income families are already on a waiting list for the units, however Kahele said he may have to seek more state funding in the supplemental budget in next year’s legislative session to complete the work.

“I am glad that the governor has released CIP funds specifically to address and improve the critical conditions at Lanakila Homes and finally assist those in need with decent and affordable housing,” Kanahele said. “The governor talked about doing this in 2010. It’s great that after so many years finally the administration is doing something about it. It’s a long-awaited process.”

Email Hunter Bishop @ hbishop@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

 

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