Republican Petitions House Speaker for Explanation on Denial to Join Affordable Housing Delegation
News Release from Rep Gene Ward, (R-Hawaii Kai) May 6, 2019
HONOLULU, HI – The Monday following the end of the 2019 Legislative Session, House Minority Leader Gene Ward (R—Hawaii Kai to Kalama Valley) wrote Speaker Scott Saiki for an explanation why House members are disallowed from joining state Senators and local developers to tour the Republic of Singapore for an affordable housing study tour.
"We cannot stress enough how important affordable housing is to the people of Hawaii," said Rep. Ward. "Our working families are struggling to pay the rent and own a home, and it is the responsibility lawmakers to find creative solutions to help our constituents. The Speaker of the House is denying us that opportunity."
This is the second time Ward has asked to join the Singapore delegation. Earlier last month, Ward wrote in a memo explaining that the firsthand experience given through this trip will assist legislators of both parties to find solutions for Hawaii's affordable housing crisis, and that such a tour falls squarely within the duties of a legislator to use their allowance for travel.
"A formal explanation is the least he can give us," concluded Ward.
Singapore has a home ownership rate of 91%, one of the highest in the world.
From May 21-30, 2019, a delegation comprised of State Senators and local housing developers will visit Singapore and Hong Kong to learn from housing experts and urban planners.
Multiple House members have been denied the ability to use legislative allowance, which is duly given to elected officials for purposes of fulfilling their duties as legislators.
PDF: Ward Letter to Saiki May 6, 2019
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Republican Fights Exclusion from Singapore Housing Study Tour
News Release from Rep Gene Ward, April 25, 2019
HONOLULU, HAWAII – Rep. Gene Ward (R-Hawaii Kai) has appealed the House Speaker's decision to not approve his inclusion in the Singapore Housing Study Tour. (See attached letter). Ward is one of the House members excluded from the housing study tour that will be visiting the Republic of Singapore in May 21-29, 2019.
"There is no more pressing issue than Hawaii's housing crisis, particularly our lack of affordable housing, and the dearth of Hawaiian homestead housing, as well as housing for the homeless. He released the following statement on the matter:
"This exclusionary House policy being advocated by Speaker Saiki is not only unfair from a bipartisan perspective, but from a bicameral perspective. The Senate has approved of its members using their constitutionally designated travel allowances, but the House which draws on the same pool of funds is being blocked. From a future legislative perspective, this signals to the Senate that House is not interested in what the study tour may find or my attempt to legislate in the 2020 Session."
"Hawaii has much to learn about Singapore's housing situation where over 80% if the nation lives in housing built by the government and sold to the public of any income level and the overall purpose of the visit is to gain a greater understanding of island-nation’s housing model which led to Singapore’s 91.5% homeownership rate, the second highest in the world. Singapore's housing polices have allowed taxi drivers as well as the middle class of Singapore to participate in the housing projects."
Gene Ward is the House Minority Leader and has served in Southeast Asia in the Peace Corps, first as a volunteer and later as a country director, as well as the United Nations and believes in would be a valuable asset on the study tour. He speaks one of the official languages of Singapore and would be helpful in nuancing the information that the Singapore Housing Board will be providing.
According to Senator Chang's Office, which is organizing the study tour, Ward is on the list of invited legislators to join the delegation comprised of Hawaii State Senators and members of Hawaii's housing development and business community. To date, 40 persons are on the list of delegates and signals the importance of the study tour, making the lack of House of Representatives presence in the delegation all the more conspicuous in its absence. Despite the present stalemate, Representative Ward will continue to fight to be the only Republican on the study tour as well as represent the House of Representatives for possible legislative efforts for solving the housing crises in the 2020 Session in hopes to find real solutions for Hawaii’s affordable housing crisis.
PDF: Letter to Saiki