Affordable Housing in Manila Camp
A new apartment complex proposed for Manila Camp is in its initial planning stages and seeks to fulfill a need for affordable housing in central Molokai. The Chopra Hale apartments would consist of 16 units and occupy 1.04 acres located at 190 Makaena Place, according to project manager Luigi Manera.
The proposal was presented to the Molokai Planning Commission last week and commissioners voiced several concerns about its impact on the community. Some questioned the project’s goal itself.
Currently, the closest affordable housing options are in Kilohana and Maunaloa, Manera said. The apartments will provide more affordable housing closer to town; however Commissioner Billy Buchanan recommended that a study be conducted to ensure the apartment rates are reasonably priced for Molokai.
Affordable rates, according to Manera, are based on Maui County’s standards, which look at the county’s average income. Buchanan expressed concern that the county’s definition of affordable might not mean it’s affordable for Molokai.
“I’d like to see a low-income housing project that working people can afford,” said fellow commissioner Diane Swenson, supporting Buchanan’s comments. “People that aren’t working are living in better housing under Section 8 than the working man. Somehow I’d like to see that bridge the gap.”
The U.S. Department Housing and Urban Development website describes Section 8 as a voucher program that provides rental assistance to very low-income families and elderly and disabled individuals.
“I don’t mind looking into that,” Manera said. “Affordable is based on the income of the whole county—not just Molokai—and we have to follow the guidelines for the county of Maui. But I have no problem looking into that.”
Commission members were wary about the property owner’s past. The project applicant is Dilip Gunawardena on behalf of the LDE Group.
“The [LDE Group] has purchased a lot of properties on the island,” said Swenson. “A lot of properties have been foreclosed, which left condo associations and renters holding the bag.”
Swenson requested that the property owners supply a signed statement affirming their financial commitment to ensure the project moves forward as well as their dedication to affect the community positively.
“I don’t want to see them do with this project what I’ve seen them do with others,” she said. “All I want is for them to be good citizens.”
Other Molokai Planning Commission requests included a letter from the Fire Department assuring the project has adequate fire coverage, as well as details on the drainage plan.
The project applicant submitted a draft environmental assessment to the Maui County Department of Planning triggered by the applicant’s request for a Molokai Community Plan Amendment to change zoning in Manila Camp from Single Family to Multi-Family to accommodate the proposed project.
Though there was no public comment brought before the commission regarding the proposed project, Manera said so far he’s received widespread approval from Manila Camp residents.
“The police sent some letters to the neighbors,” Manera said. “We got a reply from most of the people and so far they’ve been pretty good. No one has been 100 percent negative.”
Manera said he predicts the comments and concerns to be formally addressed and brought back before the commission in October.