Lessons Learned: Housing Lessons
Terry Brooks, Housing Solutions Inc.
Housing Solutions Inc. celebrates its 25th anniversary this year as a nonprofit that creates and manages low-income housing on Oahu. Last year, it unveiled the Sea Winds Apartments in Waianae, a 50-unit project that took four years to complete using federal, state and city funding. President and principal broker Terry Brooks talks about what made it happen.
Hawaii Business: Many people complain about how hard it is to work with government on a large housing project. How did you make it happen?
Brooks: It’s all about tenacity. We just hang in there to get what we want and eventually it will happen. … We can do things faster than government, but they’ve got the money, so as long as our goals are the same in providing affordable housing, it works out well. We’re not in a super rush to build like crazy and that’s important, because there’s time to fine-tune the operation and know it’s serving people well. For most of 2012, we’ll be tweaking Sea Winds and making it run the very best we can, so after that, in 2013, we’re hoping to find some kind of partnership with another nonprofit for additional housing.
HB: Did you have to make adjustments along the way?
Brooks: The grants took years, so you have to adjust your thinking to accommodate that. The first grant we got in federal funds through the city was for $5.25 million. With that money we decided to have a small component and a larger component, so if we never got any more money we could at least build the smaller component. That’s why we came up with a project with 20 studios that look like a small village and then the 30-unit townhomes adjacent.
HB: Did you learn what works best in pursuing government funding and whether it’s worth it?
Brooks: Absolutely, on both counts. Once you’ve done projects with government, you’ve gained credibility, so when other projects or funding become available, you’re a group they call. As well, grants are all on different timetables, so you have to keep track of all the filing deadlines and be alert to when new funds become available. At the same time, you have to be working on a grassroots level with the neighborhood board to make sure there’s community support. For Sea Winds, there was super support from the Waianae community, which was gratifying.
Housing Solutions Inc.