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Senator hits takeover of housing project


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POSTED: Friday, November 13, 2009

A state plan for a private developer to take over the nearly 50-year-old Kuhio Park Terrace high-rise public housing project is “;a train wreck waiting to happen,”; says state Sen. Donna Mercado Kim.

The chairwoman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, whose Kalihi district includes the housing project, says the two Y-shaped towers have had problems for decades.

The state Public Housing Authority awarded New Jersey-based Michaels Development Co. a contract to revitalize and redevelop both Kuhio Park Terrace and Kuhio Homes. The entire project would cost $316 million over 30 years.

During a public hearing on the project at the state Capitol yesterday, Kim said the housing authority estimates that it will cost $162 million to renovate the two 16-story buildings, but the proposal from the developer calls for spending $42 million and securing $30 million in state low-income tax credits.

“;I think they are way off on the numbers,”; Kim said after the meeting.

“;I think they need to get someone on board who will do a financial feasibility study of the project as it is proposed,”; Kim said.

Kim also criticized the housing authority bid proposal that stressed keeping the two towers. Noting that the project's elevators repeatedly break and that all the apartments, even the three-bedroom ones, have only one bathroom, Kim said the state should have been more creative.

“;I think we are being shortsighted by not considering replacing the buildings,”; Kim said.

Chad Taniguchi, housing authority executive director, defended the proposal, saying that the authority wanted to make sure that no housing is lost in the redevelopment.

“;The main criteria was one-for-one replacement of housing,”; Taniguchi said.

Taniguchi said the developer will actually own and be responsible for the housing project. A portion of the project will be available as mixed-income properties that will be sold.

“;The concept involves unlocking the development potential of relative low-density properties by increasing the number of housing units at a housing project and attracting new affordable- and market-rate income tenants who are able to pay higher than public housing rents for the additional units,”; Taniguchi said in his prepared testimony.