County: Construction on Kona emergency shelter project to begin next spring

  • A homeless person sleeps on the stands at Old Kona Airport Park. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • A map of the Kukuiola project. Courtesy image

KAILUA-KONA — Hawaii County expects to begin construction this spring on the Kukuiola emergency shelter project.

Sharon Hirota, Mayor Harry Kim’s executive assistant assigned to homelessness, said Monday county staff is currently working with design partners to finalize the design and construction cost for the project’s first phase.

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A final environmental assessment with a finding the Kukuiola and Village 9 Affordable Rental Community project will have no significant impact was published late last month, allowing the project to move forward. Hirota said the county anticipates that construction will begin in spring 2020.

“We are excited about the proposed project and the addition of emergency shelter units and assessment center for West Hawaii,” she said.

Funding for the project is via the Hawaii Housing Finance &Development Corporation and Ohana Zones initiative, which was allocated by the state Legislature in 2018 for around $30 million to fund at least three projects on Oahu and one project per neighbor island to help the state gain momentum in its struggle with homelessness.

The 2019 Point-In-Time count, conducted in January, tallied 690 people experiencing homeless on Hawaii Island. That was down about 21% from 869 in January 2018.

Hawaii remains under an emergency proclamation on homelessness through Dec. 16. In October, Gov. David Ige extended the disaster emergency relief period for homelessness for a sixth time. The emergency proclamation was first issued in December 2018 and permits quick allocation or re-allocation of funds to support existing efforts to curb the emergency.

Construction of the Kukuiola emergency shelter would be followed by the project’s permanent supportive housing element and the affordable rental housing project to come later down the line, resources permitting.

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.

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The Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corp will develop 13.2 acres on the parcel’s mauka portion for affordable rental housing. Work on that affordable housing is expected to start in 2025 depending on infrastructure availability, the final EA stated.

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 vicinity of the West Hawaii Civic Center and Kealakehe High School.

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