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Addressing the Need for Affordable Housing in Hawaiʻi

“Affordable Housing” qualifies as an oxymoron in Hawaiʻi.

As housing prices in Hawaiʻi continue to soar, and out-of-state buyers become residents in homes that were previously rentals, housing security has become more precarious for middle- and lower-income working individuals and families in Hawaiʻi. Many of my colleagues in the real estate industry devote volunteer time to groups and projects addressing affordable housing, and of course we work with first-time buyers in our communities, a job that has become extremely difficult and frustrating in the past year.

This video illustrating the need for housing for local families was funded by real estate and mortgage professionals.

There is still hope on the horizon. With few new projects in the pipeline, both State and County elected officials are looking for more systemic solutions to create more dwellings for both rental and purchase by local residents. On both small and large scales, private individuals, non-profit entities, and developers are also looking at solutions.

Hawaiʻi State Legislature Passes Affordable Housing Bills in 2022

This year the Hawaiʻi state legislature passed several bills intended to help ease the situation. The Hawaiʻi Association of Realtors supported these bills as part of the “Yes in My Back Yard” movement originating in San Francisco.

The legislation being sent to the Governor would address several aspects of the housing crunch. Among the bills that passed:

  • SB 3048 – Appropriates $300 million into the Rental Housing Revolving Fund. For the first time, funding has been set aside – up to $150 million – to develop rental housing for working individuals and families with incomes below the median family income for the State of Hawaii.
  • HB 1600 – Appropriates $20 million for the Dwelling Unit Revolving Fund to facilitate the development of infrastructure for affordable housing and $5 million to the Affordable Homeownership Revolving Fund to provide gap financing for for-sale housing.
  • HB 1752 – Appropriates $1.5 million to establish incentives for landlords to participate in the Tenant-based Assistance Housing Choice Voucher Program.
  • HB 1837 – Funds and establishes a working group on affordable housing to foster increased inter-agency coordination on housing and land use issues, address barriers to affordable housing development, and propose future legislation.
  • HB 2511 – Appropriates $600 million to be used to develop housing in all counties for native Hawaiians on the state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands waiting list.

Private Sector Solutions – and Small Scale Investment Opportunities

I recently blogged about the innovative Kumu Hou project in Waikoloa Beach Resort which will build homes targeted at resort employees as part of a larger resort expansion.

Kohala Town Center commercial and rental complex for sale

The two-story buildings to the right are rental apartments; the rest of the complex has seven commercial spaces, in Kapaʻau town

I also like to think that the real estate investment dollars buyers are bringing to Hawaiʻi can be part of the solution. A prime example would be the commercial property for sale in Kohala that includes four rental units. The rental units were added by a previous owner of the commercial property and are always in high demand.

If you would like to learn more about how to contribute through your philanthropy to community-based affordable housing efforts like Homes for Kohala, or would like to look for long-term rental properties for sale on Hawaiʻi Island, letʻs talk about your options.

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Franklin J. Rivera Sr

May 11, 2022

We need housing in kohala us locals been bought out rental houses are limited and expensive we need something to be done

Beth Thoma Robinson, R(B)

May 11, 2022

> Yes, so urgent, both the rental housing and more homes for local buyers.

Carrie Jackson

May 11, 2022

Beth, having both grown up on Kauai, and now having two young adult children, this issue resonates so deeply for me. It is an urgent and critical piece of our economic health in Hawaii. If our best and brightest cannot afford to return home, and the “brain drain” to the mainland continues, we lose our future leadership. Communities lose diversity. Families lose future caregivers. Our schools lose teachers and our clinics lose nurses. It is imperative that our political leadership and the private sector partner to offer true, actionable solutions on every island in the state. Thank you for shining a light on this critical socio-economic issue facing our island communities.

Beth Thoma Robinson, R(B)

May 11, 2022

> So eloquently stated, Carrie. We definitely underestimate and undervalue the positive economic and social impact from having affordable housing for people who grow up here to work and raise their families here. It is not only the people currently in our communities who are still somehow managing to hold on, it is also the ones who would return home in a heartbeat if they could!

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