Honolulu Affordable Housing on Oahu: Your Guide to What, Why, and if you Qualify

honolulu affordable housing guide

Page Guide: Where to Buy | Advantages | Eligibility | Income LimitsFAQ's

Affordable Housing in Honolulu has long been a hot, and often misunderstood topic in the Oahu real estate Market as the island continues to be plagued with short housing supply and the high Cost of Living in Hawaii. Most are aware of the new Honolulu 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 Oahu Affordable Housing guidelines.

It's tough to find an affordable housing for sale on Oahu, and just as tough to find affordable apartments in hawaii to rent. 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 the condos are for sale or for rent is up to each developer. 

Where can I buy Honolulu Affordable Housing in 2023?

Those looking to purchase the Metro Honolulu area should look to the Ililani project (now selling) near SALT at Kakaako, Sky Ala Moana condos(now selling Market Units, Affordable coming soon), and the The Park on Keeaumoku project(now selling). These new Honolulu condos are quickly transforming Kakaako and Midtown Ala Moana into thriving urban epicenters. The most recent offering of Honolulu Affordable Housing units will come via the newly proposed Alia condo in Kakaako and the Kuilei Place project near Iolani School. Look for this one to release in early 2023. 

kalaeloa homes for saleThose looking at homeownership in West Oahu should look to the up and coming Kalaeloa master plan, poised to build 6,000 new Kapolei homes for sale project. We expect 30% of what's built here to feature Affordable Housing in Kapolei with the first offering coming from 2-3BR townhomes in the Kaulu by Gentry project which is currently under construction. 

Last not but not least, Malina at Koa Ridge in Central Oahu is also be offering affordable housing units from time to time; you just have to be ready and prequalfied when they're released.  These will be townhomes similar to Hoopili and unlike the condos in Honolulu. 

Advantages of Purchasing an Affordable Housing Unit

  • 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?

The Honolulu affordable housing requirements are 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. 


It's important to mention that not all Honolulu Affordable Housing programs are created equal and you may see different income limits at different projects. Take the Hoopili project in Ewa Beach for instance. The Kohina and Ilima phases first offer affordable priced Hoopili homes to buyers that qualify under the 80% AMI group. If they don't sell after a certain period of time, the developer then opens up Hoopili Affordable Housing to the 120% AMI group.

Honolulu Affordable Housing FAQ's

What's the difference between a Condo and an Apartment?

Condos are typically referred to units that are for sale. When talking about rentals, we typically refer to them as "Honolulu Apartments."

What is HHFDC?

The Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corporation(HHFDC) operates as the primary overseeing agency of all affordable housing for sale, and Hawaii apartments for rent. The development and financing of the affordable housing units is operated by the agency as well.

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 downpayment required for affordable housing?

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 is the cost of an affordable housing unit in Honolulu?

It depends. The developer has some say so in setting the price but ultimately it's a function of the Honolulu Area Median Income(AMI). Please refer to the specific project pages above to reference unit pricing.

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

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