Draft EA released for Kona emergency shelter project

  • A map of the Kukuiola project. Courtesy image

KAILUA-KONA — Construction of the first phase of the Kukuiola emergency shelter project could start as early as this fall, according to a draft environmental assessment released Thursday.

Construction of the emergency shelter would be followed by the project’s permanent supportive housing element the next year with an affordable housing project to come later down the line, resources permitting.

ADVERTISING


The full project site consists of a little less than 36 acres at the corner of Ane Keohokalole Highway and Kealakehe Parkway in Kailua-Kona in the general area of the West Hawaii Civic Center and Kealakehe High School.

The first phase of the Kukuiola project, located on approximately 19.1 acres, includes 20-30 emergency housing units and temporary intake facility. Future phases would allow for as many as 60-90 more emergency housing units.

Other components include a dog park, overnight parking and spaces for a community pavilion, career center and other services.

The emergency housing component covers approximately 6.4 acres, according to the assessment. That leaves about 12.7 acres of land below there that can be developed for permanent supportive housing with a density of about 20 units per acre.

The assessment said construction of the first phase of the emergency housing could start as soon as this fall with the supportive housing component kicking off next year.

Meanwhile, the Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corp will hold onto a little more than 13 acres of land on the parcel’s mauka portion to develop affordable rental housing.

Work on that affordable housing is expected to start in 2025 depending on infrastructure availability.

The project aims to help the county address the need for resources to support those experiencing homelessness.

The 2019 Point-In-Time count tallied 690 people experiencing homelessness on Hawaii Island.

“Homelessness continues to be at a crisis level in Hawaii County, particularly in North Kona,” the assessment states,“and one of the root causes is the lack of housing affordable to people earning the lowest incomes.”

The assessment said the county’s goal regarding homelessness is to reach a point of “functional zero,” where homelessness isn’t necessarily eliminated, but that the county has an adequate supply of housing/shelter and interventions as well as the resources to “rapidly respond to any person who is experiencing homelessness, regardless of their level of need.”

ADVERTISING


The publication of the environmental assessment kicks off a 30-day comment period giving the public a chance to weigh in on the proposal.

A public meeting is planned for 5:30 p.m. this coming Wednesday at the West Hawaii Civic Center in Kailua-Kona.