Hi. My name is Rechung and I’m an entrepreneur. Toward the end of college in 2010, my friend Tony and I got together at the original Bangkok Chef garage and talked about how we wanted to stay in Hawaii.

There weren’t many jobs but we had a crazy idea to commit to making our home a better place to live and work. Today this idea has grown into a place where we created our own jobs and help others be independent — a co-working space called BoxJelly.

We’re proud of BoxJelly. People tell us we’re doing the “right” things but it’s difficult to afford to stay here. In fact, after years of “living the dream,” Tony recently left to join his family in the Midwest where they moved for more opportunity.

Tony isn’t the only one; our HVAC guy just told us he’s moving to Vegas, “too expensive” he said. I feel you …

Kakaako has become a community that should remain affordable for local families. Anthony Quintano/Civil Beat

Afternoons, I join friends at Mother Waldron Park to play ball. Many of the “Kakaako Ballers” live in affordable housing nearby and others live in the big glass buildings. We usually stay past sunset talking story and trying to shoot in the dark. Occasionally, the younger guys bring music and in those moments there’s an energy.

It’s a community. With so many new towers; I worry about how many of us will be able to continue to afford to live here.

If you’ve been around Kakaako lately, you know this incredibly fertile garden of ideas and economic growth. But, we’re faced with choices of what seeds we will plant and what kind of harvest we will have in the years to come. We can plant just cash crops, such as luxury condos to be harvested in a massive one-time bounty benefitting the few. Or, we can plant a diverse garden of fruit trees, vegetables and kalo.

That garden is housing, from affordable rentals to homes for local families, which can sustain us for generations to come. The latter is harder to get right and requires more work but when done right, it gives life, not just profit.

The Hawaii Community Development Authority drafted amendments to its rules to make more homes affordable for people like you and me, and keep them in our price range longer. The rules only apply to new developments so anyone who already owns or rents their home in Kakaako is not affected; neither are projects already grandfathered in.

Part of the aim is to suppress demand from speculators and set aside about 20 percent of the new units for local families who desperately need it. You and I both know we need more affordable homes for local people.

A lot of the changes in Kakaako are positive. I remember it was so sketchy we’d have to escort members home after dark, it was a crazy time.

A developer’s job is to build successful projects and that’s okay. I even foresee the BoxJelly developing properties in the future. But, there must be a shared framework to shape our neighborhood to benefit the most people.

Does that mean developers shouldn’t make a profit? Of course, they should. Developers are a vital part of the solution, but HCDA’s role is to consider what kind of city we want to live in over the next 20 to 30 to 100 years, not just how many buildings we can build today.

HCDA will hold an additional public hearing on the proposed rules on May 17 and a decision-making hearing on May 31. Please read the rules for yourself, make your own decisions and testify.

You can view the proposed rules at hcdaweb.org.

Community Voices aims to encourage broad discussion on many topics of community interest. It’s kind of a cross between Letters to the Editor and op-eds. This is your space to talk about important issues or interesting people who are making a difference in our world. Column lengths should be no more than 800 words and we need a current photo of the author and a bio. We welcome video commentary and other multimedia formats. Send to news@civilbeat.org. The opinions and information expressed in Community Voices are solely those of the authors and not Civil Beat.

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