Maili Self-Help Project III, a subdivision of 76 houselots on a 9.48 acre parcel of vacant land, is the most recent Oahu development of the Self-Help Housing Corporation of Hawaii (SHHCH).
Like other residential projects implemented by SHHCH, the new Maili development will make affordable housing available to low income families acting as owner/builders.
According to SHHCH Executive Director Claudia Shay, Maili III is in the subdivision approval stage and construction is expected to begin this summer. Pre-purchase counseling with prospective owner/builders is in progress.
Maili I and Maili II, with a total of 20 single family homes, were completed in 1985 and 1986, respectively. “With the support of the City and County of Honolulu Department of Housing & Community Services, the Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corporation, and the U.S.D.A. Rural Development, our first Oahu project was launched in Maili,” Shay said.
“The participating families, some of whom were homeless and living in severely substandard conditions, were pioneers who demonstrated the success of the self-help housing method. Many of the original families are still living in the homes…in fact, some of their children are participating in our projects today.
“In our third Maili increment, six teams of self-help families will build six different models of one story, three and four bedroom, two bath houses for $255,000 fee simple.”
The private, non-profit corporation has to date helped 560 low income families throughout the state become successful home owners. Founded 25 years ago, SHHCH provides technical assistance to families and individuals whose incomes range from 30 to 120 percent of the area median income to build quality affordable housing. In addition to 44 self-help projects, SHHCH has also completed 11 contractor built homes, both rehab and new construction, and partnered with the City and County of Honolulu Youth Build Program and the HHFDC to renovate a homeless shelter in Waimanalo.
The organization provides the full range of technical assistance including procurement and development of suitable land sites; recruitment, interviewing, and selection of team families; financial counseling; procurement of interim and permanent financing; mortgage guarantees and bonding; attainment of subdivision approvals and building permits; home ownership education; and on-thejob training in home construction through the team self-help method.
“Once we undertake the loan packaging and submit the documentation to the lender, and the lender determines the family to be eligible, SHHCH enrolls them in a six to eight week course that covers the loan process, establishing credit, budgeting, insurance, blueprint reading, and more. Simultaneous with the home ownership education, the lenders continue the loan processing and, when the loan closes, the construction stage begins,” Shay said.
During the construction stage, SHHCH staff order the construction materials and supplies, arrange for the sub-contractors, set up the inspections, and provide on-the-job instruction. An experienced construction supervisor teaches the families the skills necessary to complete the homes. Each family contributes 32 hours a week and helps build the houses of other program participants as a team. Because the houses are built through a mass construction method, all units are completed at the same time.
Shay notes that the houses built by the self-help families are quality three and four bedroom houses which cost only about $120,000 a unit, but appraise as high as $250,000 a unit. The participating families save 50 percent of the cost of the house through their “sweat equity”…which equates to immediate financial equity in the property.
SHHCH projects have been moved forward by Shay’s success at leveraging various sources of assistance including substantial land write-downs and loans from the Housing and Community Development Corporation of Hawaii, Federal funds from the City and County of Honolulu, County of Kauai, and County of Maui, and subsidies from the Federal Home Loan Bank of Seattle. She has also secured low interest interim financing from private lenders, federally insured low interest permanent financing and conventional loans, and donations from private companies.
“The two major challenges facing the Self-Help Housing Corporation are procuring additional affordable land and obtaining operating funds,” Shay said. “As a non-profit housing agency, procuring operational funds is a continual process. With additional resources we could service many more low income families who are experiencing housing problems. Although we have several projects and subdivisions under development, our waiting list consists of 3,000 families. It’s vital that we procure additional land, particularly on Oahu.
“I believe it’s everyone’s right to have affordable adequate shelter. When a community allows substandard conditions to develop and homelessness to grow, society will eventually pay for it. Without adequate housing, families cannot function successfully… leading to crime, substance abuse, and illness. When families have stable home environments, they thrive and become productive citizens. It’s axiomatic that when people build their own home, it becomes a matter of personal pride, and they will never allow it to become dilapidated. Neighborhoods are enhanced, the tax base is broadened, and the whole community benefits.
“All the resources for successful self-help housing projects are in place…it’s just a matter of knowing how to tap into them and redirect them to the people who are in need. The most critical need in Hawaii is clearly affordable housing…both for-sale and rentals,” Shay said.