Your Guide to What, Where, Why, & Do You Qualify?

Honolulu Affordable Housing in the Oahu real estate market is a hot, and often misunderstood topic in a state with short housing supply, and some of the highest home prices in the nation. Most are aware of the new residential condo towers popping up in the Kakaako and Ala Moana Skylines, however, most aren’t aware that developers are actually required by state law to offer a certain number of units for sale under Affordable Housing guidelines.

With a few hundred affordable units offered for sale and sometimes thousands of applicants, the supply never meets the demand.  The Ala Moana neighborhood is seeing the greatest influx in new condo projects and may offer as many as 5 residential towers, a condo-tel, and rentals. Affordable Housing will be offered by each project in some capacity; but whether it’s for sale or for rent is to be determined.

Considering affordable housing? See some of the common FAQ’s and guidelines below to help you determine if you might be eligible.


What is HHFDC?

The Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corporation(HHFDC) operates as the overseeing agency of all affordable housing in Hawaii. The development and financing of the affordable housing units is operated by the agency as well.

What advantages does HHFDC's Affordable Housing provide?

  • Qualified and eligible applicants of the program are given an opportunity to purchase below market prices.
  • Opportunity to live and own in a new construction project in Metro Honolulu.
  • With the height of Oahu home prices today, a common theme amongst many of my clients is the scenario by which buying a home equates to a downgrade in preferred location or quality of home, relative to their rental. Putting aside the many benefits of homeownership vs. renting, this can be true. The Affordable Housing Program can offer opportunities for a more lateral move -- providing homeownership options to a prospective buyer in locations or of a quality that wouldn't normally be in the budget. But again, with restrictions. 

Are you eligible for Affordable Housing?

Eligibility for the program is ultimately determined by HHFDC’s review of the information provided on buyers’ applications. 

The most notable requirements for the program are as follows: 

  • Applicant must be 18 years or older
  • Must live in the unit 
  • US Citizen or permanent resident alien 
  • Resident of the State of Hawaii; currently resides in the State of Hawaii. State ID or Drivers License is typically requested as proof.
  • Applicant must not own a majority interest (more than 50%) anywhere. Yes, anywhere.
  • On top of being eligible for Affordable Housing, buyers must also qualify by showing they have gross income(s) that satisfy a mortgage lender’s guidelines to purchasing a home.

Are there income limits for Affordable Housing?

Yes. Buyers’ eligibility is determined by their household income being no greater than a specified area median income(AMI) determined by HHFDC(Usually 120-140%). Take a look at the chart below for the 2018 AMI; note your household size at the top of the chart. 


What is the buyback program?

Buyers wishing to purchase Affordable Housing unit must know that they are required to own and occupy their unit for 10 years. Should they look to sell, rent, or transfer ownership of the home prior to the 10 year buyback period, HHFDC is given first right of refusal to purchase the unit. Once the 10 years buyback period expires, the restriction no longer applies.

I do my best to have my clients "crystal ball" their futures for the next 10 years as a decade is a long time, and a lot can change in terms of family dynamics and income. Make sure you consult your Realtor to gain full perspective on what you can and can't do as an Affordable Housing owner, and how that may affect your real estate future going forward. For some, Affordable Housing is a perfect fit. For others, it may handcuff them from their accomplishing their long term Oahu real estate goals. 


Is a deposit required?

Yes. Buyers are required to make a $500 good faith deposit upon signing a contract for a unit. A total deposit of 5% of the purchase price, less the $500 good faith deposit is due after 30 days. 

Shared Equity Program — What is it?

One of the caveats to the HHFDC allowing buyers to purchase at below market prices, is the Shared Appreciation. In turn when you sell your unit you will share some of the net appreciation back with the HHFDC to help fund future projects. The SAE is determined prior to closing and once determined, will never change.


Here's a sample SAE computation using estimated figures to help you understand the how an Owner's Percentage Share and the HHFDC Percentage Share is calculated:


What’s the next Affordable Housing opportunity if I’m curious about buying? 

Those looking to purchase the Metro Honolulu area should look to the Ililani condo project (coming soon) near SALT at Kakaako, Sky Ala Moana condos( now selling Market Units, Affordable coming soon),  The Central Ala Moana condos (now selling, current availability may be limited) and. These are exciting projects in highly desired Honolulu neighborhoods that are quickly transforming into thriving urban epicenters.


Those looking at homeownership in West Oahu should look to the Ho'opili project; more specifically the Kohina at Ho'opili and Ilima at Ho'opili phases that are currently selling Market Priced units, but estimated to bring Affordable Housing units later this year. Ho'opili is centered between Ewa and Kapolei, anchored right next to the future planned Honolulu Rail, and just north of the new Ka Makana Alii mall. We expect Ho'opili to consistently offer affordable housing opportunities as new phases are released.

Last not but not least, the highly anticipated Koa Ridge (coming soon - I know..we've been saying that forever) project in Central Oahu will also be offering affordable housing units with estimated sales to commence in 2020.


What's the Process?

honolulu affordable housing buying process


If you would like to be the first to know about future New Condo and/or Affordable Housing opportunities, register on the Interest List below!

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