Hawaii invests millions to ease housing crisis
by Kim Jarrett, The Center Square, June 22, 2023
(The Center Square) - Hawaii Gov. Josh Green signed a series of bills he said would help stem the state's housing crisis.
The state's lack of affordable housing has led to a workforce shortage, Green said in a news conference. The average cost of a Hawaii home in Oahu is $1.15 million, meaning families would need to earn $200,000 a year to afford a house, according to information from the Honolulu Board of Realtors included in Senate Bill 865.
"Why do we not have enough nurses? because we don't have enough houses," Green said. "Why don't we have enough teachers? Because they can't afford housing."
Senate Bill 865 creates a program to build low-income housing on state-owned land. The house will have 99-year leases issued by the Hawaii Community Development Authority.
“With Act 97 (SB 865), the state for the first time will take direct responsibility for reversing the housing shortage by providing income-blind, revenue-neutral, 99-year leasehold homes for all of Hawaii's people,” said Democratic Sen. Stanley Chang, whose district includes Hawaii Kai, Kuli‘ou‘ou, Niu, ‘Āina Haina, Wai‘alae-Kāhala, Diamond Head, Kaimukī, and Kapahulu. “It’s a proven model that has worked in Singapore and will finally enable every generation of local people to have a good life here in Hawaii."
The bill will cost the state about $1.5 million in administrative costs and another $190,000 to hire two new full-time employees.
The state will spend $1 million to expand the State Rent Supplement Program, which will assist residents 62 or older and people who are homeless or in danger of becoming homeless.
Another bill would change Hawaii Public Housing Authority’s percentage requirements so that more people in need can be helped. Green also signed a bill that would allow banks to invest up to 15% of their capital in low-income housing projects without the approval of the Commissioner of Financial Institutions.
“This was a monumental year in making significant progress toward addressing the affordable housing crisis in Hawaii," said House Committee on Housing Chair Troy Hashimoto, D-Waiehu, Wailuku, Waikapū, Sand Hills. "We are immensely proud of our focused efforts in providing housing relief to those who need it the most."
Green said at his press conference Wednesday he is not done addressing the housing shortage.
"We are working with our colleagues, possibly in the next couple of weeks, you will see this housing declaration of emergency, similarly to address some of the bottlenecks on housing," Green said.
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