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Sunday, July 30, 2023
Housing Emergency Designed to Fail
By Andrew Walden @ 11:29 PM :: 4457 Views :: Development, Land Use, Cost of Living

by Andrew Walden

Signing his July 17 2023, ‘Emergency Proclamation on Housing’, Governor Josh Green claimed it “will accelerate relief from the statewide housing crisis.”

No.  It won’t. 

Because it is temporary, Green’s Proclamation ensures that too few projects will be approved to actually bring down the cost of housing.

In a July 23, 2023 Star-Advertiser column, Green claims:

“our housing regulations add $233,000 to $325,000 to the cost of buying a home in Hawaii.”

Dead wrong.

Housing regulations add $233,000 to $325,000 to the cost of BUILDING a home.  The cost of BUYING is set by supply and demand.

Green’s Chief Housing Officer Nani Medeiros has been pretending to ‘solve homelessness’ for seven years as Director of ‘HomeAid Hawaii.'  This makes her the perfect front person for a fake affordable housing scheme.

Medeiros tells Civil Beat: “rather than just sort of taking an ax all over (Hawaii Revised Statutes), we approached it with a scalpel.”

Yes.

The emergency rules are surgically cut to provide quick low-cost approval for Transit Oriented Development (TOD) projects sited near Rail and backed by Kamehameha Schools and other insiders.  Projects approved under the Emergency Order will cost less to build, there is no real control over the sales price, and, of course, developers outside Hawaii’s corrupt and venal political system won’t have a chance to compete before the ‘Emergency’ comes to an end.

Green’s office even lists a ‘pipeline’ of 10 Oahu development projects set to be approved.  Strip out the seven projects that are either under construction or are sponsored by the City’s bumbling Housing Department and only three remain:

Again, stripping out the same types of projects, Sister Isle ‘pipelines’ listed by Green’s office are entirely HHFDC or DHHL with only two exceptions, both on Maui and, bizarrely, owned by Mainland developers:

And who gets those ‘affordable’ units?

According to Green’s Emergency Order (pg 18) “Affordable housing shall refer to housing that is restricted to buyers earning 140% AMI…” -- $169,950 per year for a family of four.

140% AMI = $118,950 single to $169,950 4 person family

And why strip out the public sector projects? 

Thanks to Medeiros’ ‘scalpel,’  they are still subject to the same slow bumbling bureaucracy which has failed to deliver again and again, as Medeiros explains:

We have not done anything to suspend their internal processes either. So the project is going through the Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corp. They still have to go through the HHFDC staff review process, board approval process. Same thing with the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands. Same thing with the Hawaii Community Development Authority — all those agencies. And even at the county level, the county councils, they still all have their processes in place.

Two rules are designed to provide approval for ‘brownfield’ TOD sites while excluding larger ‘greenfield’ developments which might actually be enough to tilt the supply-demand equation:

--“…lands greater than fifteen acres but less than one hundred acres in the agricultural, rural, and urban districts shall be subject to the attached Governor's emergency rules….” (pg 9)

--“Housing, for purposes of this Proclamation, shall be defined as the development of new owner-occupied residential units … that replace existing residential units or creates additional residential units… or  Brownfields sites that are developed primarily to provide housing.” (pgs 5 and 12)

Obviously, these rules are designed to prioritize ‘brownfield’ Aloha Stadium housing projects.   

In addition, KSBE is already designing two ‘brownfield’ TOD developments not listed in Green’s ‘pipeline’:

  • Kalapama Kai: Kamehameha Schools’ commercial lands along Kapālama canal  (link)
  • Keawalau at Waipahū (link)

The Carpenters Union owns Josh Green.  As Star-Advertiser columnist Richard Borreca explained June 19, 2023:

“In 2018 (the Carpenters Union) super PAC donated heavily to Green’s lieutenant governor campaign, giving nearly an estimated half-million dollars through political action committees.

“Green also hired Brooke Wilson, the former political and education director for the Hawaii Regional Council of Carpenters, as his chief of staff."  

Brooke Wilson has served as Chief of Staff for Lt. Gov. and Gov. Green since 2018.

Landowners, developers and unions are getting exactly what they paid for when they backed Green for Governor. 

If these rules were permanent, the upsurge in housing development could tilt the supply-demand balance in favor of lower housing prices. 

That’s why the rules aren’t permanent. 

The entire state is organized as a property ladder for the benefit of KSBE, C&C, Campbell Estate, other legacy landowners, their allied developers and building trades unions. 

Ironically, the Ali’i Trusts’ land use policy is literally driving Hawaiians out of Hawaii--with the majority of Hawaiians now living on the Mainland.  And equally ironic, the Trusts themselves promulgate the ‘anti-outsider’ mantras which both keep the public distracted and choke off competing development plans, this reducing supply and boosting prices.  Conceptually, this is identical to the Miske gang’sDefend Hawaii’ slogan--aimed at keeping Mainland meth dealers from horning in on ‘local’ pushers’ monopoly on selling poison to Hawaiian children.

With homeowners literally in on the profits, a solid and unshakable majority exists to support the status quo regardless of its effect on renters.  So when the legislature reconvenes you may be 100% certain that Green’s emergency orders will not be enshrined into law.

And when the Emergency Order is finally ended, its pre-programmed ineffectiveness will be exploited to argue against the idea that loosening development rules can lower prices.

---30---

Flashbacks:

2009: OHA driving Hawaiians out of Hawaii

2013: Ethics complaint: HCDA Falsifies Kakaako Workforce Housing Affordability Formulas

2020: Amemiya Joins Pack of Insiders Grabbing ‘Affordable’ Housing Units for Themselves

2023: $100M Affordable Housing Scam: HCDA to discount 501 Kakaako affordable housing units to insiders’ profitable nonprofits for a quick flip 

2023: Kuilei Place ‘Affordable’ Units Cost $800K

2023: Josh Green Owned and Operated by Carpenters Union

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