Advocates weigh whether property tax increase could help house homeless

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - On Nov. 8, the mayor of Los Angeles wants property owners to vote for a tax increase that would generate $1.2 billion to house the homeless.

It's known as Proposition HHH: Homes, Help and Hope. The money would jump start the construction of 10,000 apartment units.

The idea has a long list of backers on the mainland. But would a similar proposal garner support in Hawaii given the state's homeless crisis?

Anti-poverty advocates at the Hawaii Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice don't think so.

"Taxation is an issue that we look at a lot and we are very concerned about it because Hawaii has the second-highest tax rate in the nation for people in poverty," said Gavin Thornton, co-executive director of the center.

Taxpayers echoed similar sentiments.

"As far as raising property taxes on people, I don't think that's going to help them," said resident Ryan Brenneis.

Lydia Rivera said the cost of living in Hawaii is already high enough.

"All the taxes are being raised and I don't have the money to live," said

Instead of an across-the-board tax hike to address homelessness, Thornton suggests raising fees for non-residents with second homes in the islands.

"One idea floating around out there is to increase property taxes in a way that really targets those non-resident owners. Twenty-five percent of our homes are sold to non-residents. On Maui that figure is 50 percent," Thornton said. "Not only would it raise revenue but it would discourage non resident purchases of property in Hawaii."

Taxpayer Kekoa Gabriel supports the idea.

"I kind of believe in that. It would cost more money doing this run around then spending this one large amount of money one time to house them and get them off the street," Gabriel said..

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