Low-income rental tower largely vacant after opening in October

CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARADVERTISER.COM Kokua Hale, on the corner of Alakea and Beretania, is having trouble attracting tenants. To increase occupancy in March, rent was reduced from $1,210, with the first month free.



Kokua Hale, at the corner of Alakea and Beretania, has struggled to attract tenants. To increase occupancy in March, rent was reduced from $1,210, with the first month free.

In the heart of downtown Honolulu, there is a huge gap between supply and demand for affordable housing.

Hawaii has long been in the grip of an affordable housing crisis, but eight months after the opening of a rental apartment building built at 1192 Alakea St. for low-income seniors 55 and older, more than the half of the housing is still vacant.

The developer of the 20-story project called Kokua Hale has cut rents twice, released advertisements and is offering a free month’s rent with no application fees, as well as a reduced security deposit of $99 instead of the usual amount. twice the monthly rent.

Yet as of Friday, 141 of the tower’s 222 studios, or 64 percent, were available for $1,210 per month.

Kevin Carney, a veteran of affordable housing development in Hawaii currently in the consulting sector, said Kokua Hale’s vacancy rate was incredibly surprising.

“It’s kind of a puzzle,” he said. “In my experience, it is unusual to offer all these incentives and spend so much money on advertising, especially given the location of downtown Honolulu. It’s very shocking that they only got this far.

Kokua Hale, which cost $88 million, was developed largely with lower-cost public funding to serve a low- and fixed-income population in great need of affordable housing.

As the building neared completion, indications suggested that demand would far outstrip supply. The project’s lead development partner, California-based Highridge Costa, received 1,736 lottery entries from applicants interested in renting a home.

“The popularity of the Kokua Hale project is truly a testament to the quality of construction of the project,” said David Oi, chief of the financial branch of Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corp., a state agency that has provided large part of the financing of the tower, during the lottery. event. “It also offers further evidence of the tremendous demand for quality affordable senior rental housing in the Downtown Honolulu region.”

The lottery was held June 20, and the tower opened in October with a mix of furnished, unfurnished and partially furnished units.

Monte Heaton, senior project manager for Highridge Costa, said in an email that a few factors have led to the disappointing number of units leased so far.

One factor is that most lottery entrants either didn’t meet the income criteria or were looking for one of 12 apartments reserved for very low-income seniors.

These accommodations rented for $687 per month and were only accessible to households…

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