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April 3, 2023 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:51 PM :: 1323 Views

Charter School Corruption: Ten Years later Felony Theft Whittled Down to Almost Nothing

Is there life after Downtown Walmart?

2023 State Audit of OHA: Is the ‘Glass Half Empty’ or ‘Half Full’?

HB677: An ‘Affordable Housing’ Program Designed to Keep Housing Costs High

SA: … House Bill 677, was drafted to provide $10 million for a five-year pilot project run by the Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corp., an agency that mainly helps developers finance affordable- housing projects.

Rep. Troy Hashimoto, the bill’s lead introducer, said the rough idea is for HHFDC to contribute $100,000 toward 100 new-home purchases by moderate- income households….

(CLUE: Friends and Family Plan.)

many details about how such a program would be implemented need to be formulated through administrative rule-making or perhaps further amendments to the bill.

For instance, it’s unclear whether there would be some kind of parameter for the price of homes that could be bought with a subsidy, and how homes from among different developers would be selected.

(TRANSLATION: This bill is designed to help keep up the price of Hoopili and Koa Ridge homes.)

Sen. Stanley Chang, chair of the Senate Committee on Housing, raised concerns during a March 16 hearing and said in a committee report that HHFDC needs to collaborate with the Legislature over establishing criteria and prioritization for applicants.

(CRITERIA: Campaign Contributions.)

Chang (D, Hawaii Kai- Kahala-Diamond Head) noted his general aversion to affordable-housing lottery programs where a small number of people get a huge benefit.

“That’s why it’s so important to be very specific about the criteria as to who gets these large benefits, and make sure that they’re in furtherance of state policy goals,” he said during the hearing, where the bill was advanced on a 4-0 vote….

read … Subsidy program would help mid-income Hawaii residents buy homes

Sierra Club’s Dream for Hawaii’s Future: Higher prices, Fewer Houses

AP: … Tedorian Gallano would like to buy a house for his wife and three youngest children in Hawaii, but real estate prices soared so high eight years ago he moved his family back to his childhood home outside Honolulu — and last year, his older brother followed suit.

Now, eight members from three generations of Gallano’s extended family share one bathroom in a house that’s so packed they’ve jerry-rigged an extra bedroom in the garage. Buying a home is “pretty much unattainable for the average working family” in Hawaii, the 49-year-old carpenter said.

“We always seem to have these hot markets that drive the prices up, and then it’s the hardworking local families that cannot buy houses who are kind of left out,” Gallano said….

(AND WHY IS THAT?  KEEP READING…)

Some moves to shore up affordable housing by easing development regulations are being met with trepidation by conservationists, who warn that going too far in that direction could endanger the islands’ world-famous ecosystems and farmland (tourist traps)….

Wayne Tanaka, the director of the Hawaii chapter of the environmental and social justice nonprofit the Sierra Club, said efficiencies could expedite needed housing development, but the “devil is in the details.” He said the community must also consider the environment, water sources, food security and climate change threats, like severe drought and powerful hurricanes.

“We don’t want to just build, build, build and then all of a sudden we don’t know how we’re going to feed ourselves when the climate crisis shuts down our harbors (ain’t gonna happen) or dries up the places where we import our food from (ain’t gonna happen),” Tanaka said.

(TRANSLATION: The Sierra Club wants less construction than we have now because soon we will all be … uh … starving to death.  That is what he just said.  And how little construction?  Keep reading….)

Currently, housing construction is not keeping up with demand. Only 1,000 to 2,000 new housing units are being built in Hawaii each year. Those numbers are dwarfed by the 50,000 new units a 2019 state-commissioned study estimated would be needed by 2025.

In contrast, in 1973, Honolulu approved permits for some 13,700 housing units, and the state’s three other main counties approved more than 4,000, said Paul Brewbaker, an economics consultant with TZ Economics.

In extreme cases, developers face backlogs of years, or even decades….

(Two Words: SUPPLY and DEMAND.  Duh!)

read … Spiraling housing prices spark worry about Hawaii’s future

GET bill: One last hurdle

HTH: … The House Committee on Finance is the last hurdle for two key bills that could determine the future of health care in Hawaii.

“We are approximately 1,000 physicians short in Hawaii,” said Kealakekua family physician Esther Smith during testimony at the House Committee on Finance hearing Thursday. “I could not find a neurologist for a patient with a brain tumor, there is not a rheumatologist on the Big Island, there is not an endocrinologist I can send my patients to…The health care crisis isn’t looming, it’s here, people are getting sick, people are not getting the care they need, people are dying.”

The first bill, Senate Bill 1035 would exempt medical providers from the state’s general excise tax, or GET, for treating patients with Medicare, Medicaid and TRICARE. This includes low-income adults, the elderly, children, pregnant women, people with disabilities, active service members, retirees and members of the National Guard….

The second bill, Senate Bill 397, would increase Medicaid reimbursement rates and match them to Medicare rates.

Reimbursement rates are the rate at which doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and other medical providers are reimbursed for providing care to Medicare and Medicaid patients.

But a 2020 survey from the Medical Group Management Association found 92% of practices throughout the U.S. reported Medicare reimbursement rates did not even cover the cost of caring for patients, and Hawaii already has one of the lowest Medicare reimbursement rates in the nation….

read … GET bill: One last hurdle

Property Tax Rates -- Incomplete Facts

CB: … Many Honolulu homeowners are livid that their assessments rose this year, arguing that the increase in home prices was fueled in part by out-of-state investors or remote workers who arrived as Covid refugees, and that the spike was only temporary. They want tax cuts.

Honolulu property tax rates (Key Word: ‘Rates’) are already among the lowest in the country, according to two studies released last year — one commissioned by the District of Columbia government and the other by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy.

Honolulu was listed dead last on a list of the largest cities in each of the 50 states in the D.C. government study. Honolulu’s residential tax rate (Key Word: ‘Rate’) is 35 cents per $100 of assessed value, compared to 85 cents in Washington, D.C., and $1.22 in Salt Lake City, and up to $22.23 in New York City and $28.35 in Charleston, S.C.

Similarly, Honolulu property tax rates were the lowest of 53 cities studied by the Lincoln Institute, and the actual taxes paid were among the 12 lowest in the nation, according to the report. (Key Word: ‘Rate’)

“Honolulu’s property tax rates (Key Word: ‘Rates’) are exceptionally low,” said Carl Davis, research director of the non-partisan Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, based in Washington, D.C. “Any way you slice it, Honolulu has a very low tax rate.” (Key Word: ‘Rate’)

But that fact, while accurate, is incomplete, says Ted Kefalas, director of strategic campaigns for the conservative-leaning Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, who points out that Honolulu’s tax rates are lower because unlike most cities, the state pays for education statewide, sparing the city that expense.

“In terms of how much property owners actually pay, we’re closer to the national average,” he said in an email. He cited a report by the Washington, D.C.-based Tax Foundation that found that Hawaii overall was ranked 29th nationally, with an average annual property tax bill of $1,455, compared to an average of $1,758 nationwide.

The average Honolulu home owner’s property tax bill is $2,470 for the fiscal year 2023, the city said….

Big Q: What do you think of the proposed one-time $300 property tax credit for eligible homeowners?

read … Honolulu Property Taxes May Sting But They Are Still Paltry By National Standards

Five Years Later: Puna residents on Hawaii island still waiting for restoration efforts after Kilauea eruption

KITV: … Five years after the Kilauea eruption tore through several Hawaii Island neighborhoods, residents said they are still dealing with the destruction.

Some said it is still challenging to access their homes because of damage to the roadways.

… a resident at Kapoho Vacationland calls her life "glorified camping."

Deb Smith said she hikes at least three miles every day with groceries because there are no roads in her neighborhood, or outside of it.

"The county road is covered right now. We are accessing through a neighbor’s property with his permission to get to the back of ours. We have to cross lava and get in through the jungle to get to the back of our property," said Smith….

read … Puna residents on Hawaii island still waiting for restoration efforts after Kilauea eruption

Outlook for Hawaii tourism from Japan not so ‘golden’

SA: … Takahata said most travelers from Japan will take May 1 and 2 off so that they can capitalize on all of the Golden Week holidays. Takahata said demand for this year’s Golden Week will be stronger than in 2022, but that air seats aren’t picking up by much. Seats for March still are down 56% from 2019, while they are down 52% in April and 48% in May….

The changing psyche of the Japanese traveler is among the reasons; another is pricing. Akiba said Golden Week fares range from about $1,800 to $3,000, including the airline fuel surcharge, so it’s definitely higher than pre-COVID-19, when it was around $1,500. She said as of mid-March seats were still available for the Golden Week travel period on Japan Airlines, All Nippon Airways and Hawaiian Airlines, adding that “before COVID there wouldn’t have been many seats left by now.”… 

BH: Finding Light In Hawaii Travel’s Bleak Outlook For Summer

(CLUE: Exchange rates.)

read … Outlook for Hawaii tourism from Japan not so ‘golden’

Legislative Agenda:

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