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Flush with cash, lawmaker approve unprecedented $1B for affordable housing

House and senate negotiators approved $1 billion for affordable housing, including $300 million for a rental housing revolving fund.
Published: May. 2, 2022 at 5:31 PM HST|Updated: May. 2, 2022 at 5:47 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Flush with cash, lawmakers are spending it.

They’ve secured an unprecedented $1 billion toward affordable housing and were equally generous with other priorities.

Lawmakers say it was time to address longstanding issues, including the affordable housing crisis and getting more Native Hawaiians off the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands wait list.

The $1 billion for affordable housing includes $300 million for a rental housing revolving fund, $15 million for the Ohana Zones housing program, and $600 million to DHHL.

“I think at this point it’s to deploy the funds in timely way so that we can get as many people as we can into these homes whether it’s rental housing or for sale housing,” said state Rep. Nadine Nakamura, chair of the Housing Committee.

“It is unprecedented,” she added.

The economic windfall comes after two years of the pandemic.

“We almost thought under the pandemic there was a $1 billion shortfall and mass furloughs. With the tax revenues, large increases, we were able to overcome that. We have a huge surplus this year,” said state Rep. Patrick Branco, vice chair of the Water and Land Committee.

It’s the state largest budget at $8.67 billion.

“I think we are in a very unique place right now where a lot of people feel really understandably economically insecure coming off of COVID, inflation is quite high at the same time the economy is relatively robust,” said Colin Moore, HNN political analyst.

Moore says some thought the surplus should be put into a rainy day fund, but lawmakers decided to spend it with $500 million left over.

“There were a lot of federal dollars and state tax revenues were extremely high so they ended up with $2 billion more than they thought they were going to have and so they are going to spend a lot of it,” said Moore.

The spending measures go through full floor votes in the House and Senate this week.

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