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Government & Politics

Kaka'ako Development Rule Changes for New Construction: Decision, May 31st

Wayne Yoshioka

The state conducted another public hearing for its proposed rule changes for workforce and reserved housing in Kaka’ako. But, as HPR’s Wayne Yoshioka reports, developers and community groups disagree on the way forward. 

If adopted, the Hawai’i Community Development Authority would require developers to provide 20 percent of “for sale” units at below-market prices.  Jesse Souki is the HCDA executive director.

“These programs are for moderate income families, 80-to-140 percent of AMI.  For a family of 4, that’s approximately $83,700 to $121, 250 combined income.  And who that might be would be a high school teacher and an accountant, or a child care worker and a crane operator.”

HCDA would also impose a buy-back and equity sharing provision to keep the units in the affordable range.   Catherine Graham is from the Housing Now Hawai’i coalition.

“A lot of municipalities around the country have affordability in perpetuity.  But I know that there’s a lot of people who don’t like that idea.  So 30 years is a minimum, 60 years is better, in perpetuity would just be my dream.”

Affordable rental units would be preserved for 30 years.  But, Economist Paul Brewbaker, who represents some area developers, says the proposed rules won’t work.

HCDA Meeting Room

“Where it does seem to work is where you’re building luxury homes. Inclusionary zoning works where people are building very expensive homes because those homes can cross-subsidize the low priced homes that seem to add to the inventory.  The problem is that people building in the middle get caught in these rules.”

Brewbaker says the workforce housing project at 801 South Street, with more than one-thousand units, was not regulated so buyers could sell the units immediately at market prices.   Sharon Moriwaki, from Kaka’ako United, says those who sold their units at 801 South averaged 130-thousand dollars profit.  She says work force housing should be kept in a pool for those who need it and HCDA was created to meet that requirement.

“That housing has to be for our people who are workers.  The people who can’t afford it.  And so I really urge this board, just think carefully.  You’re not here for the development.  If the developers don’t want to build, let us have green open space for parks.”

HCDA Board Chair, John Whalen, says the proposed rule changes are consistent with affordable housing goals for the State’s Hawai’i Housing Finance and Development Corporation and the City and County of Honolulu.

“It can work but we’re looking at just Kaka’ako.  But the City’s policy is to promote affordable housing close to rail stations and Kaka’ako is along the rail line.  But it’s very challenging here and if the city and state were to invest as much in housing as they are investing in transportation, we might have a better situation.”

The HCDA Board has scheduled a final public hearing followed by decision-making, May 31st.   Wayne Yoshioka, HPR News.

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