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Approved Council Bill Incentivizes Affordable Rental Developments

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Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi has approved Council Bill 1, introduced by Council Chair Tommy Waters, in a move to address O'ahu's housing crisis by incentivizing the construction of affordable rental housing.

Anton Krucky, Executive Director of the Mayor's Office of Housing, is hailing the final approval for Halewaiolu, a 156-unit affordable and assisted living project for seniors on River Street near Vineyard in Chinatown.

"But there's much more to be done. We have five projects in the queue right now but we have to find more projects and we have to find more ways to motivate developers," Krucky said.

Numbers differ on just how many affordable units will be needed on O‘ahu.

A DBEDT study released January 2020 estimated overall housing demand on O'ahu could require between 10,000 and 22,000 housing units by 2030. Krucky said the city is looking at a shortage of 8,000 units in that time.

He admits that's a big number.

"We just passed Bill 1 and that gives a grant to developers developing smaller projects or upgrading their buildings for affordable housing," he said.

Over the last few years, the city has experimented with acquiring properties for affordable development such as a small apartment building at 754 McCully Street.

The Dee Lite Bakery property was acquired for potential transit-oriented development—in this case, housing.

Harbor Arms Apartment Hotel in Aiea was originally purchased for coronavirus quarantine and isolation. The plan was to convert it to affordable housing for those at 60% of the area median income or lower. Click here to see recent projects.

"We can build some on our own. We'll have American Relief Plan money coming in and we can take a look at the impact that can have on affordable housing and some set asides we can do there--but coming up with additional ways to incent developers in their projects," he said.

Krucky points to O'ahu Housing Now, a new program for currently unsheltered individuals, which will be funded with $12 million from the CARES Act. The program is focused on housing 300 individuals this year.

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