Mayor plans "major regulatory change" on affordable rentals - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Mayor plans "major regulatory change" on affordable rentals

HAWAII KAI, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said he will announce a “major regulatory change” in the coming weeks that he said will make it easier for developers to build affordable rentals. 

He disclosed that development just minutes after an incredibly generous act happened Wednesday morning at a lottery for affordable rental units in Hawaii Kai.

Several dozen people gathered to see if they were among the 54 families chosen by lottery to rent affordable units at the new 7000 Hawaii Kai Drive apartment complex when Eddie Odquina of Hawaii Kai won an apartment in the lottery but gave it to Stacie Sato-Sugimoto.

"I'd like to give it to her, she's got two kids. Stacie?" Odquina said.

"You are amazing.  Thank you," Sato-Sugimoto said, as she teared up and those in attendance applauded.

That means she and her two children can move to the apartment complex, which will be completed next year. She will pay $1,500 a month rent for a two-bedroom unit and be able to afford moving out of her parents’ home in Hawaii Kai.

"My parents live out here.  I'm recently a single mom.  I have two little kids and they go to the same elementary school I work at and I want to be out here near my parents and raise my kids in the community I was raised in as well," Sato-Sugimoto said.

Odquina, who lives with his mom in Hawaii Kai and has a 17-year-old daughter, said he gave away his spot to her because "This is the only one I met with two kids and so that hit me.  And they were younger.  And we had similar situations.  We both wanted to stay close to our mother, our elder mother."

The original development agreement with the city called for 10 percent of the rentals here to be affordable, but the developer doubled the number of affordables because of a city incentive.

That exempts the landowner from paying property taxes for the entire project as long as 20 percent of them are rented at affordable rates to people who earn 80 percent or less of the median income.

"We have the incentive to do that and we hope that more developers will have that incentive," said Christine Camp, president of Avalon Development, the developer of the Hawaii Kai project.

The other 80 percent of the units will be rented at market rates.

In the coming weeks, the city will announce what Caldwell called a "major regulatory change" affecting how affordable housing is built. 

"We're going to be looking at maybe reducing the percentage of affordability, to a lower level of affordability for a longer period of time, so things don't fall out of affordability," Caldwell said.

Caldwell said right now the city gets developers to build affordables that remain for only 10 or 15 years before they can be sold or rented at market rates, so the island keeps losing affordable housing inventory.

"We need more of this in perpetuity so our inventory grows and young families and seniors can live better and a lot more affordable," Caldwell added.

The mayor's staff said details of the new proposals are still being worked out . But they said the mayor would like to make it easier for people who build affordable rentals to get property tax waivers.  Those waivers would only apply to the affordable units, according to the mayor’s spokesman.

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