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HCDA: Developers and Public Weigh-In on Proposed Affordable Housing Rules

Wayne Yoshioka

The state is proposing to change affordable and work force housing rules for Kaka’ako.    But, as HPR’s Wayne Yoshioka reports, some developers and residents are not happy with any of the plans. 

The Hawai’i Community Development Authority – HCDA -- conducted the first of two required public hearings on proposed amendments to the Kaka’ako Reserved Housing Rules.  Attorney, Curtis Tabata, is HCDA’s hearing officer.

“The proposed amendments will expand the sources of reserved housing units, encourage further development of “for sale” and “rental” reserved housing units.  Additionally, the proposed amendments will establish buy-back and equity-sharing options for workforce housing units.”

One of the proposed changes would lower the qualifying household income from the current 140 percent of area median income to120 percent or 120-thousand dollars annual income for a family of four.  Kaka’ako resident and member of Kaka’ako United, Galen Fox, says that’s still too high.

“Eighty-six percent of the people in Hawai’i, according to the 2013 statistics, file tax returns showing their income as less than a hundred thousand a year.  Less than a hundred thousand a year.  You cannot buy a piece of property in the 120 to 140 percent range.”

Hawaiian Dredging Construction Company chairman, Bill Wilson, says the proposed HCDA changes will bring new construction to a halt.

“It has already slowed in the last year as the demand for market units has in fact reduced.  For the workforce housing units the challenges that will exist there will be greater, too, given both the equity-sharing and buy-back rights being proposed for future workforce housing projects.”

Developer, Stanford Carr, opposed the reserved-housing buy-back provision to maintain affordability in perpetuity.   He’s also against the requirement to maintain rentals for 30 years.

“As it is, you don’t see production rental housing being developed in the Kaka’ako Districts.  To impose an additional 30 years of building and maintaining rentals is just adding another disincentive of why you already don’t have the existence of production rentals unless you’re utilizing a federal-state subsidized program.”

The City and County of Honolulu is supportive of most of HCDA’s amendments.  Harrison Rue is Community Building and Transit Oriented Development administrator for the city.

“There were some more recent changes and we still need to take a look at what some of those are but in general we like the extended buy-back period and the fact that they do have some focus on rental housing at 80 percent AMI which is similar to the City’s position of greatest need.”

But, Ryan Harada, a member of developer Downtown Capital LLC, was disappointed HCDA Board members were not present at the public hearing.

“It’s a chance for the Board members to listen to the public which we had a lot of support against these amendments to the reserve housing rules.  We had other developers here in case they had any questions.  It would have been a lot more courteous and respectful if the Board showed up to listen to this.  How can they say that this a public hearing if the Board doesn’t even show up.”

The final public hearing and HCDA decision-making is scheduled May 3rd.   Wayne Yoshioka, HPR News.

Wayne Yoshioka
Wayne Yoshioka is an award-winning journalist who has worked in television, print and radio in Hawaiʻi. He also has been on both sides of politics as a state departmental appointee and political/government reporter. He covered Hurricane Iwa (1982) as a TV reporter; was the State Department of Defense/Civil Defense spokesperson for Hurricane Iniki (1992); and, commanded a public affairs detachment in Afghanistan (2006). He has a master's degree in Communication from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and is a decorated combat veteran (Legion of Merit, Bronze Star and 22 other commendation/service medals). He resides in Honolulu.
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