2016 Islander of the Year in Business: Stanford Carr

Building affordable homes.
Stanford Carr
Building Up: Developer Stanford Carr in his Downtown office.
Photo: David Croxford


Lately, no matter how you look at O‘ahu’s biggest problems—homelessness, gridlock, preservation of open space, an inhospitable environment for business and a cost of living that keeps pricing us out of the market and the state—all signs point to a lack of affordable housing as a primary contributor.


Whenever solutions are discussed, Stanford Carr’s name keeps popping up. After 25 years of creating affordable projects from Kapolei to Maui to Kaka‘ako, the founder and president of Stanford Carr Development is a master of leveraging federal tax credits and other financial incentives to build housing while, he says, “exposing the taxpayer to zero risk.” 


That’s a neat trick.


When Carr explains the mind-bogglingly complex art of subsidizing homes for the middle-class working public, he’ll smile and say, “It’s a lot of brain damage.” For his Halekauwila development, he says, “At the closing, the documents filled two conference rooms at HUD’s office.”


“We’re serving a whole spectrum of families.”—Stanford Carr


His expertise is such that he has assisted other developers to get a handle on their own affordable housing obligations, which are incurred as a tradeoff for building luxury market-price condos. When Ward Village called for advice, he could explain that, to fill 375 reserved units, they would need to reach out two years in advance and sift 1,200 applicants. “So they started credit classes and credit counseling for prospective applicants,” giving them time to “clean up their credit and save up for the down payment.”


Well in advance of the rail’s arrival downtown, Carr is working to create the template for transit-oriented development with the Keauhou Place condo project. “By taking the four elements of affordable housing—rentals, workforce-for-sale condos, market rentals and moderate income for-sale condos—and developing them with Kamehameha Schools inside a whole city block, with commercial and retail, we are defining the concept of TOD,” he says. “We’re serving a whole spectrum of families.” 


Carr doesn’t have to do this—he got his start with luxury houses on Maui—but it’s what drives him. Since we last interviewed him in May of 2016, the longtime developer has stepped up an already impressive game. 


In addition to developing hundreds of affordable units, he lobbied the state to open up the application process for tax-credit financing. A once-a-year window is now year-round. He also spearheaded the writing and passage of a Senate bill last year that enhances the value of state tax credits for affordable housing. The new law makes the housing more attractive and achievable by offering developers “more equity, less debt,” he says. 


Nine months ago, Gov. David Ige appointed Carr to a task force of landowners, developers and politicians, that is “working to repeal the current statutory $38 million cap on the rental housing fund that is replenished by the conveyance tax,” he says. “The fund provides necessary gap funding that we use in building rental housing,” under the federal plan. 


Finally, in a little-known arrangement, Carr played a key role in the purchase and preservation of the contested 660-acre parcel of ag and coastal land at Turtle Bay.


Carr was appointed by the lenders to be the asset manager. “I was brought in by Credit Suisse to handle the transition. And I formed the new ownership entity that owns the asset today.”


Why the urgency? “Thirty years ago, I was the kid in the audience listening to panel discussions about the necessity of affordable housing,” he says. “After 30 years, my patience is running out.”