The Foundation Confirms a Renewed Commitment to Affordable Housing
In November 2016, Foundation Board and Staff, along with the Hawaiʻi Island Community Development Corporation (HICDC), participated in a blessing of 12 acres of land in Pepeʻekeo on Hawaiʻi Island. This land would eventually become home to Puʻuʻalalā Village, a 30 home, self-help housing project for families who wanted to become first-time homeowners. Every weekend for nearly a year, with the support of HICDC, these families spent long hours building their homes together. The project consisted of three phases. The first phase of 10 homes was completed in June 2020, the second phase in November 2020, and the final phase in January 2022. This is the second affordable housing project the Foundation has supported.
Knowing that Puʻuʻalalā Village would be completed in 2022, the Foundation Board and Staff took time to reflect on its work in housing and, as a result, confirmed a renewed commitment to affordable housing by adopting a goal to increase access to stable and affordable housing for families who are not well served by the market. The terms “stable and affordable” are important to us since that is what ensures a family can stay in-place, develop roots and connections, and raise their children. In adopting this goal, the Foundation was mindful of the many challenges related to affordable housing our families are facing across the state. We know that addressing this issue is a tall order as there is neither a single path to proceed nor can any one of us do this work single handedly. But we are hopeful that we can make a contribution.
To better understand the issues and to see where opportunities for our contributions might exist, the Foundation engaged a team of graduate students under the leadership of Dr. Phillip Garboden, HCRC Professor in Affordable Housing, University of Hawai‘i, Mānoa. We asked the team to help identify possible strategies we might deploy toward achieving our goal of affordable housing for families. In October 2021, they presented their findings and recommendations to the Foundation Board and Staff. Based on the team’s findings, we have identified three strategies we are learning more about. We are hopeful we can advance at least one in the coming months.
The three strategies we are exploring at this time include: (1) providing funding to one or more CDFIs to support an acquisition and predevelopment loan fund for affordable housing developers; (2) providing additional support, such as education, counseling and down payment assistance to families who are near-ready to buy a home; and (3) helping to develop stronger pathways to careers for Hawai‘i’s local youth into nonprofit housing development careers through an internship program. In each of these possible strategies, the Foundation will be looking for ways to leverage other funding and to support innovation and systems change, where possible. While the Foundation is focused on identifying one or more longer term strategies, we want to remain open to ideas that surface among our partners and leaders from the community, in case there is a meaningful role we can play.
Affordable housing for families is part of our history. It was our benefactor, Helga, who inspired the Foundation’s first affordable housing project on Kaua‘i. Like Helga, we want to help families find stable and affordable housing in which they can live, grow, raise their children, prosper, and be engaged in their communities. We look forward to sharing our progress with you and, as always, welcome your thoughts and feedback.