Hawaii's housing crisis did not go away during the COVID-19 pandemic, in fact in some ways it got worse. In response, the Legislature is considerign dozens of bills on housing.
Most of the first 43 bills introduced in the Senate last month concern affordable housing. The House has a slew of its own bills. The measures propose a wide range of possible solutions.
Some concern Hawaii’s low income housing tax credit and other financing programs. House Bill 80, for example, would expand the pool of potential investors for tax credits to generate more equity financing for low-income housing.
Other bills look for ways to speed up the process of approving new housing developments, including targeting the State Historic Preservation Division for reform. Backlogs in its historical and archaeological reviews add anywhere from months to years to a project. Senate Bill 869 would allow SHPD to contract a third-party firm to conduct a review if the department itself can’t complete one within 60 days.
There are also bills under consideration that would light a fire under the counties. Senate Bill 33 requires each county to prepare a plan for increasing its housing supply and offers funding for those studies. Another, more aggressive bill, simply requires that the counties proactively approve housing starts equal to 10% of their predicted demand for housing.
This one, Senate Bill 779, cites research done two years ago for the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism finding that Hawaii will need more than 50,000 new housing units by the year 2025, half of these on Oahu.