Lawmakers highlight need for more affordable housing and statewide coordination

Hawaii lawmakers held a joint Senate and House informational briefing on July 23, to learn more about affordable housing needs in Hawaii - Photo courtesy of Senate Communications
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Hawaii lawmakers held a joint Senate and House informational briefing on July 23, to learn more about affordable housing needs in Hawaii - Photo courtesy of Senate Communications
Hawaii lawmakers held a joint Senate and House informational briefing on July 23, to learn more about affordable housing needs in Hawaii – Photo courtesy of Senate Communications

HONOLULU — With the shortage of affordable housing options for the moderate income workforce, Hawaii lawmakers today held a joint Senate and House informational briefing to learn more about affordable housing needs in Hawaii.

Senators and representatives heard from various government agencies to learn about the status of existing and planned affordable housing projects, and their plans to address the growing need for affordable housing as the state’s population and housing demands increase.


“We convened this informational briefing because there’s an urgent need for affordable housing,” said Sen. Suzanne Chun Oakland, chair of the Senate Committee on Human Services. “And it’s necessary that we get everyone involved at each level and at the same table to discuss where we are at, what we are doing and what needs to be done to meet the housing needs of Hawaii’s residents.”

In 2011, the Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corporation (HHFDC) released the Hawaii Housing Planning Study which revealed 50,000 new units needed to be built between 2012 and 2016 to meet demands. Of that number, based on HUD income guidelines, about 19,000 are needed for household incomes of 80 percent of area median income (AMI) and below. (This is $43,250 for 1-person household, and $61,750 for 4-person household). HHFDC has procured a new updated study that will be released later this year.

“Hawaii’s workforce deserves to live in housing they can afford,” said Rep. Mark Hashem, chair of the House Committee on Housing. “Nearly half of Hawaii’s homeless population are working persons who are unable to afford steady permanent housing. In addition to addressing the housing shortage for those at AMI, we also need to ensure there is enough help for hard-working low-income individuals to obtain housing units.”

During the briefing, lawmakers questioned the Hawaii Community Development Authority (HCDA) about reserved housing requirements for workforce housing in the Kakaako district.

“Our constituents remain concerned that developers are reserving affordable housing units at the 140% of AMI mark, which is not reasonable for many of Hawaii’s working population,” said Chun Oakland. “HCDA needs to be doing more to address the housing needs of the people at 100% of AMI and below.”

Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz, chair of the Senate Committee on Economic Development, Government Operations and Housing, questioned the siloed approach to planning for affordable housing projects for transit oriented development (TOD).

“It seems like all agencies have their own plan and no one is working together,” said Dela Cruz. “Instead of this siloed approach to workforce housing in relation to TOD, there must be an overall statewide approach. There’s going to be housing located around the various TOD stations. Why are we not working together?”

This past session, the legislature created a TOD Working Group to bring together all major players to plan for the future in a comprehensive and succinct way.

Sen. Will Espero, chair of the Senate Committee on Public Safety, Intergovernmental and Military Affairs, expounded on the effect veterans returning home will have on Hawaii’s housing needs in the future.

“Our veterans fought for our nation’s principles of freedom and liberty and deserve to raise their families in housing they can afford,” said Senator Will Espero, chair of the Senate Committee on Public Safety, Intergovernmental and Military Affairs. “As our veterans return home, we need to ensure they have access to services to ensure a smooth transition back to civilian life.”

Other issues related to affordable housing discussed included the growing number of people on the waitlist of public housing and Hawaiian homelands. In public housing, there is approximately 30,000 people waitlisted (using three people per family as the average). That is about 10,000 families on the waitlist. For Hawaiian homelands, 26,926 applicants are waitlisted and 43,080 applicants are pending.

During the 2014 Legislative Session, lawmakers approved measures to help with affordable housing. They include:

SB2542 (Act 163) – Restores the allocation of conveyance tax collections to the rental housing trust fund to 50% beginning July 1, 2014. It is estimated that this law will generate $33,100,000 for the Rental Housing Trust Fund, which is used to leverage funds for the building of affordable housing units.

HB2251 (Act 162) – Increases the Hula Mae Multifamily Revenue Bond authorization limit from $750 million to $1 billion. The program will help first-time buyers afford a 30-year mortgage at a competitive rate and provides down payment assistance. There’s a high demand for this type of financing and in 2013 the total dollar value of requests exceeded the amount available. Increasing this amount will allow for the continuation of development and preservation of affordable housing for lower income households.

The following government agencies who provided testimony include Hawaii Community Development Authority (HCDA), Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corporation (HHFDC), Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL), Hawaii Public Housing Authority (HPHA), Department of Defense, City and County of Honolulu’s Office of Housing.

The entirety of the hearing can be viewed online at

See all of the briefing material here:





    • Market forces can never be controlled by legislation. Regardless of the intent or diligence, the market always decides the quantity and prices. Efforts to manipulate markets always result in the market making the decision. Always. Its an illusion to think legislation has a solution to market forces. Its never worked, always produces distortions, and the market always finds equilibrium.

      Hawaii needs to ask itself where it is going trying to sustain a homeless situation that is increasing faster than resources are available. Hawaii has limited resources and commerce drives the economy. Citizens need to decide if they want commerce; meaning jobs, or homeless.

      There is no sitting on the fence, its one or the other because if Hawaii does not get it right, commerce will leave and those remaining will all share a spot on the streets and in doorways of closed businesses. Think things through. Legislating economics is a historical failure Hawaii should glean good example because commerce and the market always prevail.

  1. The only solution for affordable housing, for ALL income working families is economic growth.It is a no brainer.And if we had a decent economic growth,we would not have to worry about cutting spending.We can't get any meaningful growth as long as the democrats have the majority political power. We can't have prosperity and economic freedom and civil liberties with any central planning,any price or wage control(including minimum wage laws). Our state needs plenty of private capital and voluntary exchanges in a free market.We can't have any meaningful oppurtunities with high taxes. Right now we have stagnation. All these government agencies that have been created and run by politicians ,cronies, and political appointees,to solve the housing problems have done diddely-squat!! The politicians that are " reconvening " because of an urgent need(?) are only involved in election campaigns for themselves on the tax-payers dime. They don't have a clue! The solution? Private sector capital investment. We need innovation, new business formation, job creation,wealth generation.The road block is our Complicated Tax Codes.high ,stupid taxes prevent capital formation. The same goes for over regulation.Every time we turn around we are getting increase taxes from these politicians in Hawaii.Want affordable housing or affordable anything?Scrap the tax code at the state and federal level.Put a leash on all these regulations.Get those useless democrats out of Hawaai state legislators, vote for capitalism,not socialism/vampirism.

  2. The obvious solution is one that always escapes the Hawaii state legislators and their government economists!!! it's economic growth.that is a common sense solution to the affordable housing for everyone in Hawaii. Economic growth. Right now we have stagnation, Soviet style central planning,high taxes,and way too many regulations.We need private capital investments,not government (taxpayer) funding.The key to housing of all kinds is profitability.

  3. May I suggest that these gov't. agencies, HCDA, HHFDC, DHHL, HPHA, Dept. Of Defense, and City & County of Honolulu, mentioned in the article above, do not have a clue as to solve this ongoing problem of affordable housing. Except by earmarking additional taxpayer money as they have done repeatedly in the past with no positive results.This time will bw another waste of tax payer money? Yes I believe so. If these people are such experts,why do we still have this problem?

  4. Another solution for more affordable housing iis to eliminate " smart growth" and growth management planning, which is a law passed in Hawaii in 1961 which attempts to control either the rate of the islands' population growth in certain regionsof the city and state,and also the location of any growth. Growth management planningis a restrictive land -use regulation which is part of the reason why home ownership is out of reach for most young people, and moderate and low income families. It also limits the ability of home builders to meet the demand for new housing. There isn't enough private land. And the state and Federal gov't. owns a lot of land creating a shortage of land needed to build homes.In other words there is a lack of supply of homes which has been causing home prices to skyrocket because the government owns/controls landwhich should be sold to private developers to build homes which will decrease the price of a home and make it affordable for everyone.

  5. Legislation can never overcome market forces. The market will decide what is affordable or not. Real property owners invest money in rentals and housing looking for a market rate of return. Real property owners, those paying the bills, suffer a loss in income by tax assessments aimed at affordable housing.

    Affordable for whom? Hawaii is an island with limited resources. Diverting money from stakeholders to people that cannot afford to live in Hawaii is a statement of contradiction. What is anyone doing in Hawaii if they can not sustain themselves. The mainland has abundant regions with very affordable housing.

    To what avail? To what avail do legislatures get involved with market forces? What is the benefit to stakeholders, those paying the bills and making the investments by diverting state revenues to a portion of the population that are not investors or stakeholders? Homelessness does not value make.

    Smart move. Legislature should forge plans to help homeless and those that cannot afford to live in Hawaii to find affordable housing outside of Hawaii. I do not see value, meaning equity, in artificially sustaining a population of people in Hawaii that cannot provide for themselves.

    Best idea I have is for legislature to leave the market alone, cease taking from some and giving to others, and make value-added, meaning equity, decisions that benefit Hawaii and its residents. Its not sustainable to continue taking from stakeholders and giving to others as the point will come when stakeholders up and take their money elsewhere. That is the market at work.

    What will the legislature do then and where will it turn for revenue after it drives stakeholders off Hawaii for the sake of those that cannot afford to live there? If the legislature continues to crush equity and stakeholders, the results will be disasterous.

    This is not democracy. This is commerce and commerce functions on market forces. Manipulation of market forces is futile because manipulation of market forces is not sustainable.

  6. From my earlier post to a legislature advancing airfare for the homeless.

    Check out this story brand new today:

    FEMA camps. This is ugly but this is what happens when communities tried solutions, that Hawaii is suggesting now, to accommodate the homeless problem and successfully fostered a burgeoning homeless population that overran available community resources.

    Hawaii must take heed in the failed examples numerous states already tried and that failed to solve a homeless problem and instead produced an increased homeless situation these communities could no longer manage.

    Do Hawaii legislators believe the homeless situation is containable? Do they believe the numbers are fixed and finite? Are legislators aware of situations and solutions in other states? What's the plan when the homeless population explodes and overruns available resources on Hawaii?

    Compassion is wonderful. Reality is something Hawaii will deal with; whether now or after things get much, much worse. So what's the plan?

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