The need for affordable housing in Hawaii is a decades-old problem, compounded by having the nation’s highest cost of living.

The latest planning surveys estimate the state needs 13,000 new units by 2016 to address the housing needs of low-income people.

There’s no shortage of ideas from motivated nonprofits, students, professionals and concerned public officials. But action is lacking. 

Hawaii has the country’s highest rate of homelessness. If steps aren’t taken to meet the demand for affordable homes, it will only mean more residents having to live on the streets.

Rising in response to the challenge are students from the University of Hawaii’s School of Architecture, the American Institute of Architects Leadership Institute and Hawaii Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice. They recently held an affordable housing design competition, called re_THINK Design. 

The competition unveiled innovative approaches for modular and adaptable living units of roughly 100 square feet with a cost around $80 per square foot. 

Here’s the list of the winners: 

Buildability Award – 4×8 (KY International, architectural firm)

Affordabilty Award – Modular Cottage (Ryan Sullivan)

Transformability – Prefab (Andreas Gaeta and Mo Tuikolongahau in collaboration with Colin Shimokawa at Shimokawa + Nakamura)

Implementation Award – 4×8

Ingenuity Award – Their Own Space (Ren Shiroma, Rebecca Ahlers, Elena Brown, and Howard Shek in collaboration with Noe Pedgarido, Craig Takahata at WATG)

Sense of Place Award – S3 (Randolph Bautista, Raymie Shigano, and Mighty Binonwagon in collaboration with Joe Echeverri at MGA Architecture)

Click here to learn more. 

Nathan Eagle


Students and professional architects presented their affordable housing designs at a recent competition in Honolulu. (Photos by Nathan Eagle/Honolulu Civil Beat)