The latest proposal to increase affordable housing on O’ahu advanced today at the Honolulu City Council. HPR’s Wayne Yoshioka reports.
Bill 58 sets affordable housing requirements in designated rail station areas on O’ahu. It requires developers seeking a building permit for 10 units or more to provide a percentage of affordable rental or “for sale” units and keep them affordable for a set number of years. Gavin Thornton is co-executive director for the Hawai’i Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice.
“We’d really like to see 30 years of affordability. We don’t think that it has any impact on whether units pencil out or not. It’s worked in a number of other jurisdictions. Sixty years has worked; 99 years has worked; we think this is doable. We just can’t afford this public investment in rail to be squandered after 5 or ten years.”
Developer, Chris Deuchar, supports the proposed measure but says not all Transit Oriented Development areas appeal to developers who prefer higher density and floor area ratio, F.A.R.
“The greatest opportunities that we have for providing workforce and affordable housing for our community lie in Iwilei, Kalihi, Ai’ea, these other areas and I don’t think it’s any coincidence that you’re seeing most of the development, if not all, and the applications that have come in under the interim TOD zoning have been in areas where they can go to 400 feet and get a 10 F.A.R.”
The City’s Department of Planning and Permitting will process the permit requests and is asking for additional funding for two more full-time positions and computer software. But, Acting DPP director, Kathy Sokugawa, opposes processing TOD permits ahead of other requests.
“When you develop a list of priorities, other than what we do now, which is largely first-come, first-served, the simpler ones get done more than the complicated ones. You begin to tamper with that, means somebody is going to lose. Somebody in number 2 will now go to number 12.”
The original Bill 58 was introduced last May and discussed extensively and amended twice. In the final version, Honolulu City Council Zoning and Housing Committee chair, Kymberly Pine, deleted the In Lieu of Construction Fee, which developers pay for not building affordable units.
“I don’t see this as the solution for affordable housing but it really has started a wonderful conversation and I think it’s gonna lead to a lot of great ideas. My suggestion is to remove the “in lieu fee” from this particular bill. You know, to be honest with you, majority of councilmembers are against the “in lieu fee” to begin with.”
Bill 58 was approved by committee members and now heads for a final vote by the full City Council Wednesday morning. Wayne Yoshioka, HPR News.