BY JIM DOOLEY – Rents for new tenants are lower at the state’s Honokowai Kauhale affordable housing project on Maui but they’re higher for longer-term occupants, the Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corp. said this afternoon.
A news story yesterday in Hawaii Reporter said residents who moved into the 184-unit complex before November 2008 recently received certified notifications that their rents would rise next month.
The letters were sent by property manager Lisa Faleafine and came after HHFDC executive director Karen Seddon said rents would be lowered to cure the facility’s extremely high vacancy rate.
In an email message today, Seddon said HHFDC “did not approve the letter signed by the resident manager” but did approve “rent increases, ranging from 1 to 3 percent, for tenants who occupied their units prior to
Honokowai Kauhale now has “three rent tiers” for different groups of tenants, Seddon said.
“It is not uncommon for affordable housing developments to have multiple layers of rent structures,” said Seddon. Differing rents are caused by “restrictions embedded within the various programs we operate under,” she said.
Rents now range from a low of $775 per month for a one-bedroom one-bath unit to a high of $1,400 for a three-bedroom two-bath apartment, according to Seddon.
In establishing rents, she said, “HHFDC strives to strike a balance between the needs of lower and moderate-
income households, program restrictions and the economic realities constraining any multifamily property owner.”
As of last month, some 40 per cent of the apartments at Honokowai Kauhale were vacant.
HHFDC spokesman Kent Miyasaki said 37 of the vacant units were ready for occupancy and 32 were in need of repair.
Former project maintenance supervisor Glenn Ishikawa put the total umber of vacancies at 71 and provided paperwork showing that a few of the apartments had been unoccupied for more than five years and 49 had been vacant for more than a year.
Filling those vacancies would have generated enough income to cover the $583,752 annual fee paid by the state to Faleafine’s firm to manage Honokowai Kauhale.