Facing sustained and fierce community opposition, the developer of a planned affordable housing complex in Kailua has withdrawn her project’s application for certain construction exemptions one day before it was set to be voted on by the Honolulu City Council.

In a letter sent to council members on Tuesday, Makani Maeva, the president and CEO of Ahe Group, wrote that Kawainui Housing Partner LP would no longer seek exemptions it needed to construct the planned 73-unit building. That doesn’t mean however that the project won’t go forward at all. Maeva said in a phone call that she doesn’t know yet how she will proceed.

The Kawainui apartment complex is one of several the community has rejected in recent years.

Ahe Group

In one of his last actions as the Council’s chair, Ikaika Anderson modified the resolution related to Kawainui on Monday, changing it from an approval resolution to one of disapproval. In a statement, Anderson said that while affordable housing is needed, it is evident that the community “strongly disagrees” with Kawainui’s proposal.

“I cannot, in good conscience, vote to approve a project that my constituents do not want,” he said. “We have had multiple hearings and meetings with the developer, who expressed her best intentions to bring affordable housing opportunities to Kailua. However, the area residents have spoken loud and clear so I urge my colleagues to reject this project.”

Although the project didn’t have the votes needed to pass, Maeva thanked Councilmen Ron Menor, Joey Manahan and Brandon Elefante for their support.

The Ahe Group remains committed to providing “long-term, safe, quality affordable housing” which requires hard work by the government and community, Maeva wrote.

“It is not merely a campaign promise, but rather a call to action,” she said. “When a person says that they support affordable housing, there should never be a ‘but.’ Never! Affordable housing cannot be mere words to win a popularity contest. Real solutions require hard conversations, tough decisions, and, ultimately, actions.”

Kailua is a wonderful place to live for those who can afford it, Maeva wrote. But the area has changed and “will continue to gentrify without taking bold action to accommodate its workforce and lower income residents,” she said.

“Affordable housing actually helps to maintain the resident base and stem the tide of this change,” Maeva wrote. “We truly regret not being able to convince the community or the full Council of its need and importance to the future of Kailua.”

The area is long overdue for more affordable housing, Maeva wrote. Of 168 affordable rental projects on the island, only one is in Kailua, she said.

“Let us be done with ‘hoping’ to find another location in Kailua that is acceptable to everyone,” she said. “The City must make a plan, appropriate land and designate funds. We must set a deadline for action before the change the community so fears invades every corner of Kailua. Before convening another housing crisis committee, holding another conference or writing another white paper, we should ask the community’s leaders to work toward a tangible solution. My hope is that all of the energy that opposed this project continues and is directed toward a real solution.”

Maeva concluded that while it is easy to criticize and oppose someone else’s idea, it is more difficult to come up with and defend your own.

“This project was my idea, I think it is a good one and I proudly defended it,” she said. “I am excited to hear the ideas of the community and ask that this Council support them.”

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