Wednesday, December 7, 2022
Hawai'i Free Press

Current Articles | Archives

Sunday, July 24, 2022
How to take politics out of housing
By Keli'i Akina PhD @ 8:39 PM :: 1067 Views :: Maui County, Development, Cost of Living

How to take politics out of housing

by Keli'i Akina, Ph.D., President/CEO Grassroot Institute, July 23, 2022

Except for maybe a few outliers, I think virtually everyone in Hawaii agrees that we need more affordable housing, right?

So why, then, do we so often see such strident public opposition to new projects or zoning reforms that might expand the stock of housing for our families, friends and others in need of shelter?

The most recent example of this comes from Maui, where just this week the County Council killed a housing project that would have created 28 affordable units in Kihei.

Opponents cited potential flooding and traffic jams as reasons for stopping the project. Those concerns should be addressed, but they shouldn’t be sufficient to kill the creation of two dozen more homes.

For one thing, flooding is an insurance issue, not a policy issue, especially since insurance companies have been willing to insure other homes in that area.

As for traffic, that will always be an issue where new housing is created. But if more housing is a priority, then figuring out how to deal with the additional traffic is just something the county needs to prioritize as well.

Another recent example: In June, the Maui County Council rejected a proposal that would have allowed vacant spaces in industrial areas such as Queen Ka‘ahumanu Center to be converted into apartments. The mall manager and neighboring local businesses were in favor of the change, as were proponents of affordable housing. But the Council voted down the proposed zoning reform, citing the need for more community input and vague concerns about noise.

“Community input” sounds positive and democratic, but in modern Hawaii, it too often is the way to thwart additional housing. The fact is, there are always dozens of reasons that neighbors can give for stopping new homebuilding — including even “changing the character of the neighborhood.” Two years ago, that concern was enough to persuade the Honolulu City Council to kill a 73-unit affordable housing project in Kailua.

I get it that many people don’t like change. But that goes to the core of the problem we face in our quest to build more housing. The people who are able to testify against a project are generally those who already have homes. The people in need of housing often don’t have the necessary information or political clout to combat organized local opposition.

That’s why the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, of which I am president, often testifies in favor of “by right” building and zoning. That is, any proposed construction that conforms to the existing land-use and building codes should be allowed to proceed “by right” — without the need for more governmental approvals, variances or special permissions.

Without by-right development and homebuilding, you end up with the problem we have now, which is basically the “Not In My Backyard” movement. In April, the Economic Research Organization at the University of Hawai‘i issued a report that talked about how NIMBYism has become a major contributor to Hawaii’s acute lack of housing.

“Because developments often require county council approval and may involve pressure from various stakeholders,” it said, “projects can be rejected because of a perceived lack of community support, even if the project could hold significant benefits for future residents of the community or for the larger housing market.”

Some lawmakers are aware of how this kind of political pressure can sideline perfectly reasonable housing initiatives. After the Maui County Council voted down the zoning change to allow residential construction near the mall, Councilmember Tasha Kama told Maui Now that she wondered how new housing would ever get approved.

 “If not here, where?” she said.

I appreciate the importance of community action and admire activists who work to improve their neighborhoods. But we cannot ignore the fact that anti-development activism is a major contributor to our state’s housing crisis.

In its place, we need to implement policies that favor by-right development, streamline the approval process and take the politics out of homebuilding. Such reform is essential if we wish to encourage new homebuilding and make our state more affordable.
_______________

This commentary was Keli’i Akina’s weekly “President’s Corner” column for July 23, 2022. If you would like to have his columns emailed to you on a regular basis, please call 808-864-1776 or email info@grassrootinstitute.org.

Links

TEXT "follow HawaiiFreePress" to 40404

Register to Vote

2aHawaii

808 Silent Majority

ACA Signups Hawaii

Alliance Defending Freedom

Aloha Pregnancy Care Center

American Council of Trustees and Alumni

AntiPlanner

Antonio Gramsci Reading List

A Place for Women in Waipio

Astronomy Hawaii

Back da Blue Hawaii

Ballotpedia Hawaii

Better Hawaii

Broken Trust

Build More Hawaiian Homes Working Group

ChinaTownWatch.com

Christian Homeschoolers of Hawaii

Cliff Slater's Second Opinion

DVids Hawaii

FIRE

Fix Oahu!

Frontline: The Fixers

Genetic Literacy Project

Grassroot Institute

Habele.org

Hawaii Aquarium Fish Report

Hawaii Aviation Preservation Society

Hawaii Catholic TV

Hawaii Christian Coalition

Hawaii Cigar Association

Hawaii Coalition Against Legalized Gambling

Hawaii ConCon Info

Hawaii Credit Union Watch

Hawaii Crop Improvement Association

Hawaii Debt Clock

Hawaii Defense Foundation

Hawaii Family Forum

Hawaii Farmers and Ranchers United

Hawaii Farmer's Daughter

Hawaii Federalist Society

Hawaii Federation of Republican Women

Hawaii Future Project

Hawaii Gathering of Eagles

Hawaii History Blog

Hawaii Homeschool Association

Hawaii Jihadi Trial

Hawaii Legal News

Hawaii Legal Short-Term Rental Alliance

Hawaii Matters

Hawaii's Partnership for Appropriate & Compassionate Care

Hawaii Public Charter School Network

Hawaii Rifle Association

Hawaii Shippers Council

Hawaii Smokers Alliance

Hawaii State Data Lab

Hawaii Together

HIEC.Coop

HiFiCo

Hiram Fong Papers

Homeschool Legal Defense Hawaii

Honolulu Navy League

Honolulu Traffic

House Minority Blog

Imua TMT

Inouye-Kwock, NYT 1992

Inside the Nature Conservancy

Inverse Condemnation

Investigative Project on Terrorism

July 4 in Hawaii

Kakaako Cares

Keep Hawaii's Heroes

Land and Power in Hawaii

Legislative Committee Analysis Tool

Lessons in Firearm Education

Lingle Years

Malulani Foundation

Managed Care Matters -- Hawaii

Malama Pregnancy Center of Maui

MentalIllnessPolicy.org

Military Home Educators' Network Oahu

Missile Defense Advocacy

MIS Veterans Hawaii

NAMI Hawaii

Natatorium.org

National Christian Foundation Hawaii

National Parents Org Hawaii

NFIB Hawaii News

No GMO Means No Aloha

Not Dead Yet, Hawaii

NRA-ILA Hawaii

Oahu Alternative Transport

Obookiah

OHA Lies

Opt Out Today

OurFutureHawaii.com

Patients Rights Council Hawaii

PEACE Hawaii

People vs Machine

Pritchett Cartoons

Pro-GMO Hawaii

P.U.E.O.

RailRipoff.com

Rental by Owner Awareness Assn

ReRoute the Rail

Research Institute for Hawaii USA

Rick Hamada Show

RJ Rummel

Robotics Organizing Committee

Save Dillingham Airfield

School Choice in Hawaii

SenatorFong.com

Sink the Jones Act

Statehood for Guam

Talking Tax

Tax Foundation of Hawaii

The Real Hanabusa

Time Out Honolulu

Trustee Akina KWO Columns

UCC Truths

US Tax Foundation Hawaii Info

VAREP Honolulu

Waagey.org

West Maui Taxpayers Association

What Natalie Thinks

Whole Life Hawaii

Yes2TMT