The state is facing a shortage of 50,000 housing units in the next two years, but no one can tell lawmakers how close they are to meeting that need.
Three years ago, the Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corporation (HHFDC) conducted a study that revealed Hawaii lacked 50,000 rental and for sale units in all income levels. During a meeting Wednesday with Senate and House leadership at the Capitol, it became clear no one has been officially tracking that progress.
"We're not going to meet that goal of 50,000 units by the year 2016," said Senator Suzanne Chun Oakland, the Senate Human Services committee chair.
Representatives from several state housing agencies were asked to provide an update on the affordable housing projects that have been completed, are presently underway or are planned for the future. From HHFDC to the Hawaii Community Development Authority and the Hawaii Public Housing Authority, each was able to report its own numbers, but no one is officially compiling the state's overall housing growth and no one is responsible for coming up with a plan to meet the 50,000 unit shortage.
"We need to identify much more housing opportunities, especially for Native Hawaiians. We have like 43,000 applicants -- and that's not people -- that's applications that have been submitted to Hawaiian Homelands for Hawaiian Homelands to build homes on there. We have a waiting list of 10,000 Hawaii Public Housing Authority applications -- on average there's three people for every application, so that's 30,000 people," said Chun Oakland.
According to officials with HPHA, public housing is already at 98% occupancy. Lawmakers say government subsidies and financing programs are needed to ensure developers will build affordable housing.
"In the real affordable housing area we need to make sure we understand what it takes for the developers to really build those kinds of units and where there is no one building," said Chun Oakland.
Housing is considered affordable if it's 30% or less than a household's income. For an individual who is earning minimum wage, that's only $377 a month. For a family of four with a household income of $64,000, that's no more than $1,600 in rent or mortgage.
According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, an estimated 12 million renters and homeowners pay more than 50% of their annual incomes for housing.
"I know most people don't want to see Hawaii built up and covered with cement or whatever -- we need to look at our own personal resources and see if we can help in some small way contribute to the need for more housing," Chun Oakland said. "Many people have an additional room in their home or they have a property large enough maybe to build a small unit. Everyone can be part of the solution."
State lawmakers plan to follow-up with Wednesday's meeting in another three months -- at that time, they're hoping for a clearer picture of what progress has been made to ensure 50,000 housing units will be ready by 2016.