More jobs, growth of BYUH behind plan for La'ie's future

The plan by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to build 1,200 homes, a shopping center, churches, parks and light industrial complex at Malaekahana may succeed where earlier plans have failed, officials say.

Just a year ago, a proposal to build 550 homes was scrapped when the economy tanked and local support seemed weak.

But now, spurred by recognition that Brigham Young University-Hawai'i — the area's economic engine — must grow in order to survive and the need for jobs amid the economic downturn, the college, Polynesian Cultural Center and Hawaii Reserves Inc., which manages and owns land affiliated with the Mormon Church, say they have a viable program to build more than twice that many homes, including market-rate and affordable units.

Reducing costs through economy of scale, increased density and the use of inexpensive building materials will play a part, said Eric Beaver, HRI president and CEO. The Mormon Church is also considering such options as a land trust that would guarantee that affordable housing would remain affordable, he said. Lastly, the project would consider government subsidies where HRI had not done so before, Beaver said.

"This round we've put everything on the table," he said.

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