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Here's how committee chairs plan to tackle Gov. Green's housing demands

Troy Hashimoto Stanley Chang.png
Rep. Troy Hashimoto and Sen. Stanley Chang, chairs of the House and Senate housing committees, outlined their priorities for the 2023 legislative session on Tuesday.

During his State of the State address, Gov. Josh Green emphasized affordable housing as a top priority for his administration.

The next day, the chairs of the House and Senate housing committees outlined their own legislative priorities.

"We know we need lots of housing," said Rep. Hashimoto, chair of the housing committee.

According to a report done by the Hawaiʻi Housing Finance and Development Corporation in 2019, legislators were made aware that the state needed about 50,000 housing units by 2025.

Roughly 7,000 units are in the development pipeline, but Hashimoto hopes to expand that pipeline by having the counties take the lead in building projects.

At this point, some housing developments could take a decade to go through governmental approval, he said. However, legislators have proposed that streamlining certain pre-development processes could expedite development.

"Counties have the ability to do district boundary amendments of 15 acres or less," said Hashimoto. "But the question is if it's a county property and a state property, why do you still have to go through the state land use commission? Why can't the county have a little bit more control over its destiny?"

Hashimoto said he's proposing a measure that has been floating around the legislature for a while. It would “fix” the district boundary amendment for housing developments on state and county land. He said he’ll be meeting with the state Land Use Commission to discuss this proposal.

He also wants to look at expanding military housing and renovating a dorm at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa in order to free up homes in communities.

Sen. Stanley Chang chairs the Senate housing committee and is looking at a broad range of issues ranging from state financing of housing developments to government reorganization.

He proposes letting the state's Office of Planning and Sustainable Development identify state parcels that could be used for housing. Senate Bill 140 would then give the executive branch the final say on where projects are developed.

"I think that one of the reasons why the executive branch is really suited to this is because, as we've all been familiar in the housing stakeholder community, one of the most common objections to new housing constructions is 'I support housing, just not here,'" said Chang.

"And because the executive branch is a statewide branch, with statewide purview, the executive branch can credibly say — we've considered the whole state, and, actually, this is the best place to put the housing."

Chang's other priority is to ensure affordable housing is actually going to residents in need.

SB 872 would add further requirements to the affordable housing 201H program by reserving units for Hawaiʻi residents who are owner-occupants and don't own other real property. The units would also be reserved for residents with income ranging on the area median income scale.

Chang also proposed preparing certain state land parcels for high-density housing projects. SB 332 and SB 333 would ban county restrictions on density for state developments near the Honolulu rail project.

Casey Harlow is an HPR reporter and occasionally fills in as local host of Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Contact him at charlow@hawaiipublicradio.org or on Twitter (@CaseyHarlow).
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