WAILUKU, Hawaii (AP) — The developer of a proposed 304-acre housing community says the first phase of the project will include the first apartment complex for west Maui in more than two decades.

"This is a major undertaking as you all know," said USA Infrastructure Investments LP CEO Paul Cheng. "No one has even tried this for 20 years, and if they were, they would be all over the place. So we're trying."

Cheng said Thursday that he hopes to begin work on the housing project by the end of 2017 or sooner, The Maui News reported (http://bit.ly/2exBK8N ).

"When I talked to the county they said, 'Look, you can do for-sale affordable (housing), but we really prefer rental because the affordable housing quickly changes after seven to 10 years to market-rate housing,'" he said.

The proposed project is estimated to cost $300 million to $500 million and will include 882 multifamily and single-family homes with at least half designated as affordable.

The first phase of construction will begin with 250 long-term rental units, with 130 earmarked as workforce housing.

"By having rentals, they'll be able to use it as a bridge to homeownership," Cheng said. "They get in there, they get married, they save some money, and when they're ready financially they can go buy an affordable unit for sale, which may be in the later phases for us."

Cheng said the first phase is expected to cost about $75 million and take 18 months to completely build, but units could be available for rent within 14 month.

Cheng said studios could go for as little as $1,000 a month, a one-bedroom unit for about $1,200 to $1,500 a month and two-bedroom units for around $2,000 a month.

Market-rate rentals will be slightly larger and have a luxury finish.

Cheng said the units are not short-term vacation rentals or time shares and that leases will likely run about a year.

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Information from: The Maui News, http://www.mauinews.com