Kunia new construction underway.

Where: Kunia, Oahu, Hawaii

Problem: Low-income farmworkers risked losing their homes

Solution: RCAC entered into a housing development partnership to preserve affordable housing

From 1916 until 2007, Kunia Village was part of the Del Monte pineapple plantation. It included workforce housing for plantation workers, but when the company closed its operations it laid off 551 workers, it put residents in jeopardy of losing their homes. However, the land owner, Campbell Estate, sold the property to the Hawaii Agriculture Research Center (HARC) for $1.00 and an agreement to continue to provide affordable rental housing at the site. In the agreement, if the lease was broken, the land would return to agricultural use, HARC had to get entitlements on the land as part of the sale. HARC did not have housing development experience, so RCAC agreed to develop a strategy to preserve the housing.

RCAC secured $6 million in U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Section 514 Farmworker housing loans and rental assistance for the current and future Kunia residents. Additional project financing included federal and state low-income tax credits, historic and solar energy tax credits, and tax-exempt bonds secured by a Section 538 USDA guarantee.

RCAC’s Loan Fund provided predevelopment financing to cover architectural and engineering expenses. RCAC then provided Kunia with a $6 million construction loan which, coupled with $20,935,000 in tax-exempt bond financing from Wells Fargo, covered costs to renovate 45 existing rental units and demolish another 19 before constructing 37 new homes for farmworker families.

In early August, RCAC staff joined the Hawaii Agriculture Research Center (HARC) in a blessing to mark the beginning of construction. Many residents who were born and raised children, grandchildren and great grandchildren on the land were in attendance. By the end of December, 21 homes were fully rehabilitated and occupied by low-income farmworker families, and the entire development is scheduled to be completed by April.

“From the beginning and still now, it’s a great cooperation with RCAC, and all other agencies and our subsidiaries that helped make this project possible,” said Stevie Whalen, HARC’s executive director.

See Kunia Village project underway, first homes blessed (9-23-16)