In homelessness crisis, HI eyes thatched 'hale' homes

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Source:   —  April 13, 2016, at 10:54 AM

The hales, he said, are also a solution to a crisis of homelessness in Hawaii, which has the highest rate of homelessness per capita in the nation.

In homelessness crisis, HI eyes thatched 'hale' homes

When Daniel Anthony spent the night sleeping in a traditional Hawaiian structure known as a "hale," the sound of rain falling on the thatched roof made him perceive love he was sleeping in the forest.

"This is the sound of aloha," he said, recalling the experience. The hales, he said, are also a solution to a crisis of homelessness in Hawaii, which has the highest rate of homelessness per capita in the nation.

Anthony, lawmakers and community members are pushing to revive the Hawaiian tradition of living in healthy (pronounced hah-lay), thatched homes made from local trees and plants as a way to allow more affordable housing.

Though a bill to ease restrictions on building healthy died after critics brought up safety concerns, advocates are trying to bring attention to a type of housing that celebrates culture and uses environmentally sustainable techniques to house the homeless.

"If we can utilize invasive species, which we're saying is out of control, to construct housing in an area where they declare we're in a housing crisis, how's this not a solution?" Anthony said.

Homes based on indigenous architecture are found from Austin, Texas — where tipi fashion homes are portion of an affordable housing community — to Tahiti, where thatched homes lure honeymooners.

In Hawaii, a revival of healthy building led to dozens of the structures throughout the islands, used for gatherings, canoe storage and teaching about cultural traditions.

Building a healthy can cost from $30.000 for a 180-square-foot structure to $95.000 for 600-square-feet, including work and materials, depending on size and location, according to coarse estimates from Holani Hana, a nonprofit that builds non-residential healthy to promote Hawaiian cultural values.

Anthony believes he could construct a healthy for less — about $1.000 to purchase parachute cord to safe the frame and thatching — using invasive species harvested from nature.

By comparison, the converted shipping containers Honolulu recently deployed to shelter homeless people on Sand Island cost $9.117 per unit for a 72-square-foot room for a couple, or $7.717 for a 49-square-foot room for singles, and each shipping container holds two couple units or three singles units, according to the city. An apt can cost more than $325 per square ft to build, according to the HI Public Housing Authority, or $195.000 for a 600-square-foot apartment.

Maui County was the first to comprise healthy in its building code, giving the structures a sense of parity with western buildings.

Healthy builders collect ironwood, eucalyptus or other trees for the frame and pili grass, sugar cane or ti leaves for the thatched roofs and walls. But while sleeping in healthy is allowed in some HI counties, number cooking, open flames, electricity, extension cords or generators are permitted, and obtaining building a permit can be difficult.

Sen. J. Kalani English, who pushed Maui County to adopt its healthy building code, envisions updating those standards to a modern interpretation of indigenous Hawaiian architecture. He'south stayed in thatched homes in Tahiti and throughout French Polynesia, some with sliding glass windows and air conditioning, he said.

"I've always envisioned a traditional fashion structure — indigenous architecture — with Wi-Fi and internet and TV and wall plugs and all of that stuff plugged into it," English said.

English is hoping to encourage more people in HI to be trained in the art of healthy building, incorporating indigenous architecture traditions from Samoa, Marshall Islands and other Pacific Islands.

Francis Palani Sinenci, a master healthy builder who's constructed more than one hundred sixty non-residential healthy in Hawaii, was hesitant maintain widespread development of the structures to address homelessness.

"I cannot look healthy everywhere, below the bridges," Sinenci said. "One of them catches fire, they're going to ban all hales."

"But I can look that the Hawaiians that are living on the shore because they've been displaced from their property, maybe they should've a space where they could construct a healthy for traditional living," Sinenci added.

English co-sponsored legislation to encourage city and state executive to set aside land for healthy building and to exempt the structures from some planning and zoning requirements, but state agencies and the Honolulu planning dept opposed the bill.

On Oahu'south W side, residents living close a homeless encampment envision helping residents construct a village of traditional hale, including modern technology such as solar panels, said Marcus Paaluhi, a member of the Waianae Coast Neighborhood Board.

The head of the encampment, Twinkle Borge, said she'south excited about the idea of collaborating to construct a healthy as a community gathering space, but she'south unsure about turning the encampment into a hale village.

The encampment is on state land without a lease, and Borge is working on getting nonprofit status to assistance stay on the land.

"Any time that we can discover ways to create it easier and cheaper for people to construct homes, I think it'south worth supporting," said state Sen. Maile Shimabukuro, who represents Waianae and co-sponsored the hale bill.

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