Hawaii provides federal and state public housing for low-income residents. The programs are administered by the Hawaii Public Housing Authority using both U.S. Housing and Urban Development and state guidelines.
In Hawaii’s federal housing projects, the average household income is $12,418. About 39 percent of households have income from jobs, 39 percent receive welfare assistance, 52 percent have Social Security or pension income and 24 percent receive money from other sources.
The state has 67 federal and 14 state public housing developments statewide with a total of 6,208 units. Most of the public housing complexes are on Oahu, which has 43 housing projects with a total of 4,904 units. Sixteen of those are limited to elderly tenants.
The largest public housing developments on Oahu include Kuhio Park Terrace in Kalihi, with 614 units, and Kalihi Valley Homes, which has 400 units. Mayor Wright Homes on the edge of Chinatown has 364 units, while three different complexes in Palolo Valley have a total of 421 units.
Not all units are inhabitable, however, and in 2005 the state started tackling a backlog of repairs and renovations that were estimated then to cost $600 million. The five year capital improvement plan from 2009 to 2013 budgets about $7.8 million a year for physical repairs.
One of the first major public housing undertakings Gov. Neil Abercrombie made after he was elected was to restore spotty hot water service at Mayor Wright. As of June 2011, gas-power tankless heater systems were installed in each of the 35 buildings. Construction took about three months and cost $514,800 to complete.
In addition to upgrading the aging units, the state has also been working to curb violence at its public housing developments. In the 1990s, Mayor Wright Homes became the first public housing site designated for a Weed and Seed program, which uses aggressive law enforcement to “weed” out crime.
The seeds are social services and community programs brought in to help improve quality of life for all residents and provide positive activities for children. Between 1997 and 2002, the Weed and Seed program in the Kalihi, Palama and Chinatown area led to significant reduction in crime — with a 67 percent decrease in murder, larceny theft and aggravated assault and a 75 percent reduction in assaults, vandalism, prostitution, weapons offenses and drug laws.