Developer scraps plan to build hundreds of homes in Mormon area

HONOLULU (AP) - A Mormon church company has scrapped a plan to build hundreds of affordable homes in the largely Mormon settlement on Oahu's North Shore.

Hawaii Reserves Inc., a land management company of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, cited cost, risk, lukewarm community support and the faltering economy as reasons for abandoning the project.

The development has been in the works for at least five years and would have brought 550 new reasonably priced homes to the rural area.

Eric Beaver, the company's president and chief executive, said the recent shutdowns of Molokai Ranch and Aloha Airlines confirmed this may not be the time to pursue the island project.

"We're starting to see that these are difficult times, that we seem to be falling into a recession," he told The Honolulu Advertiser.

Beaver said several factors would have resulted in homes being priced out of the reach of the residents the project was intended to help.

The cost of the land and infrastructure alone was estimated at $200 million, or roughly $363,000 per house, he said. The median price of a single-family home in Hawaii tops $600,000.

As many as 200 families had expressed interest in owning one of the homes. Beaver called the interest "moderate."

"I'm not sure what it is they're expecting us to do," he said. "We've been saying for a long time, we're not going to do the project unless it's feasible. We're not going to lose money."

The project also faced political issues with the state trying to purchase nearby Turtle Bay Resort to head off development plans and with other planned projects in the area.

Dan Davidson, executive director for the Hawaii Housing Finance & Development Corp., said losing an affordable housing project is disappointing because of the statewide shortage of such units.

Hawaii Resources was to build on 663 acres that once belonged to the old Gun Stock Ranch. The company last year acquired an additional 227 acres next to the ranch.

The company plans to hold on to the 890 acres and the current lessees will remain on the property, officials said.


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