Top candidates for governor differ on specifics, but agree housing crisis must be addressed

This week, Hawaii News Now is sitting down with the leading candidates for governor on a range of issues.
Published: Jul. 25, 2022 at 3:40 PM HST|Updated: Jul. 25, 2022 at 5:25 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The leading Democratic candidates for governor agree the housing crisis — with its low inventory and burdensome regulations — isn’t solvable overnight.

But they do support some immediate measures and all support some form of a housing emergency declaration.

This week, Hawaii News Now is sitting down with the leading candidates for governor for “The Job Interview,” a no-holds-barred, in-depth conversation with a panel of journalists from HNN and Honolulu Civil Beat.

U.S. Rep. Kai Kahele said one of the big problems driving up costs is outside money.

“You have to work with the county mayors and the county council to create a tax bracket that taxes out-of-state, non-occupied homeowners,” he said, during his interview.


Kahele wants affordable housing in Halawa rather than an entertainment complex around a new stadium.

Lt. Gov. Josh Green touts getting private developers on board to build villages for the homeless and says the state Legislature could go into a special session.

“We can come down very hard on illegal rentals, illegal Airbnbs unoccupied properties,” Green said.

“There’s right now 42,000 units that are owned by mainlanders that are illegally being used as Airbnbs. We’re only 50,000 ... units short for a decent inventory for our housing situation. If you shift tens of thousands of units into the housing inventory, the macroeconomic reality is the prices are going to come down a lot.”

Businessowner Vicky Cayetano says an emergency declaration could fast-track workforce and affordable housing.

“To me, the state of emergency is to make the statement that we are in an emergency and we need to work together to address all these issues,” Cayetano said.

“So many businesses now have vacated or have reduced the number of office square footage that they need. Could we take some of those and rezone and modify them,” she added.

Republican gubernatorial candidates Duke Aiona and BJ Penn declined to participate in “The Job Interviews” but Heidi Tsuneyoshi says she would consider a moratorium on luxury developments.

“I definitely believe that should be a consideration on the table, especially when we look at our infrastructure, and our water and our sewer capacity ... especially Oahu with the rail coming online,” Tsuneyoshi said.

“We’ve already heard how we’re going to connect all of that to the grid and how it’s going to maintained and as as an island state and with limited resources, I would definitely consider something like that.”

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