A Place for Kūpuna at Hale Makana o Mōʻiliʻili


Patti Barbee found her calling in 1993, when, as a newly hired housing specialist for OHA, she flew to Hawaiʻi Island to meet with Mililani Trask and several families from Kalapana who had been displaced by a lava flow. Trask, an attorney who rejoined OHA as Hawaiʻi Island trustee last year, is well known as a passionate advocate for Native Hawaiians in critical areas such as education, healthcare, job opportunities and affordable housing.

The families were living in temporary quarters in Hilo. Barbee and Trask wanted to learn about the challenges they were facing firsthand, so they could bolster efforts to obtain funding from the state legislature to help them rebuild their homes and lives. Many of them were kūpuna who were on a low fixed incomes — only $500 to $800 per month — and they were grappling with financial problems.

“Trustee Trask displayed such compassion as they expressed their concerns about finding a suitable place to live on their limited budget,” said Barbee, now the president and CEO of the Hawaiian Community Development Board (HCBD).

“More than ever, it was ingrained in my mind that housing costs for elders, whether it be rent or a mortgage, need to be affordable. That trip inspired me to channel my energy and expertise into developing affordable housing for kūpuna. It’s important for them to be able to secure safe, comfortable lodging within their means, so they can live with dignity, worry-free.”

HCDB is a Native Hawaiian-owned-and-operated non- profit development firm that builds rental units and provides other housing solutions primarily for low-income Native Hawaiian individuals and families. That said, its newest rental project, Hale Makana o Mōʻiliʻili, is available to seniors 55 years and older of all ethnicities who earn no more than 60% of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Area Median Income guidelines.

Officially opened in June, the six-story, $39.7 million building at the corner of Algaroba Street and Makahiki Way in Honolulu was brought to fruition by ʻIkenakea Development, a partnership between HCDB and 3 Leaf Holdings; architectural firm AH; construction company Moss & Associates; and Philpotts Interiors’ interior design experts.

“This project not only helps fulfill Hawaiʻi’s crucial need for affordable housing, it upholds the values and traditions that are deeply rooted in our Hawaiian culture — to respect and care for our elders, who are cherished members of our community,” Barbee said. “It’s in a clean, vibrant neighborhood within walking distance of stores, parks and a variety of enriching diversions. For example, McCully-Mōʻiliʻili Public Library, the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaiʻi and Mōʻiliʻili Community Center, which has a great seniors program, are just a few blocks away.”

Low-density apartment buildings and small, dilapidated single-family homes dating back to around 1928 were torn down to make way for the new, modern building. An oasis on a relatively small footprint, Hale Makana o Mōʻiliʻili offers 80 studios (accommodating one or two people) and 25 one-bedroom apartments (for up to three people), each furnished with a kitchen featuring ceiling fans, granite countertops and energy-efficient appliances. LED and solar-powered lights illuminate walkways and parking areas.

A retired floral pattern donated by Manuhealiʻi, a Native Hawaiian-owned apparel company, was incorporated in striking artwork that adorns the front wall of the building and another wall in the resource center, a 1,000-square-foot space for social gatherings, cultural presentations, special events, tenant association meetings and other community-oriented functions. The resource center will also provide information and activities that align with residents’ needs and interests.

“The floral motifs not only add beauty, they symbolize the aloha spirit,” Barbee said. “They imbue Hale Makana o Mōʻiliʻili with a sense of welcome, optimism and connectivity, which is so important to kūpuna’s wellbeing. It’s a place that residents are proud to call home.”

Home Sweet Home

Monthly rents at Hale Makana o Mōʻiliʻili range from $553 to $1,243, including water and sewage costs. There are covered parking stalls, bicycle storage and a laundry facility on site. Details are being finalized for a car-share program that will enable residents to rent vehicles provided by the property for a reasonable fee, eliminating the costs associated with owning their own vehicle.

At press time, all the one-bedroom units had been rented, but those who are interested in applying for a studio can obtain an application through the property management company, Mark Development.

Applications can be completed online at www.mdihawaii.com/moiliili or downloaded and submitted to Mark Development’s office, 3165 Waiʻalae Avenue Suite 200 in Kaimukī. Hours are Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to noon and 2:00 to 4:00 p.m.

Individuals 62 years and older who are on the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands’ waitlist may be eligible for housing vouchers, which allow them to pay only 30% of their income as rent. For more information, visit www.hawaiiancouncil.org/kupuna.