Encouraging ohana housing in Hawaii
by Rachelle Chang, Better Hawaii, June 3, 2014
I grew up in a multi-generational household. My grandparents owned the home, but my father and aunt lived there and contributed money for utilities and groceries. Living separately, we would not have been able to afford our own homes, take vacations, pay for child care, or own two cars. But living together, my parents and grandparents were able to save money and avoid getting into debt. They helped raise me (no after-school care) and took me on vacations to Disneyland and New York when I got older.
Multi-generational households are fairly common in Hawaii. Over 11% of Hawaii households are multigenerational, the largest percentage in the United States, according to 2009-2011 US Census Multigenerational Households report. These households consist of three or more generations.
Several of my friends and family members are living with their parents, relatives, or children. Right now, I know of two couples who are rebuilding or renovating their homes so that a child and his family can move in with them.
June is National Home Ownership Month, and we’re starting to focus less on single-family home ownership and more on creating homes that suit our needs. Ohana housing, condominiums, and smaller homes are all more attainable and may even be a better fit with Hawaii’s culture and lifestyle. They have the benefits of saving money (in terms of mortgage, utilities, and maintenance) and reducing debt, and take into account childcare and elder care.
In the 2014 Hawaii Legislative session, one proposal stood out as a way to help multi-generational households: tax credits for ohana housing. HB1592 and SB2340 would establish a refundable ohana residential housing income tax credit for principal residences between April 2014 and January 2016. No progress has been made on these bills. Note: I don’t support tax credits in general; I would prefer to simplify the tax code and get rid of most tax credits. But I also understand that we have to work with the system we have.
Here are two more ideas to help multi-generational Hawaii families find and hold on to their homes:
* Ohana housing workshops: The Department of Housing and Urban Development or the Hawaii Public Housing Authority could offer periodic workshops to help people decide whether ohana housing is right for them, and help guide them through the process of building, permit approvals, and family considerations (Who will own the land and house? Is this a temporary situation? How will bills, taxes, repairs, and maintenance be proportioned? Who will take care of household responsibilities? How can privacy be respected?).
* Ohana home savings accounts: Low-income individuals and families could enter into an agreement to pool their money in a dedicated ohana home savings account. This would be available to two or more related individuals or families (for example, parents, child, and child’s family; or aunt/uncle, niece/nephew, and their family). The money could be used only for housing – first and last month’s rent plus a deposit for a rental unit, or a down-payment on a home – with the account holders named on the lease or title. There would be a five-year deadline for making a withdrawal.
Have you lived in a multi-generational home? If yes, what has been your experience? What are the biggest rewards and challenges? If not, what concerns you and what would make you consider it?