Honolulu Council budgets millions for homelessness

Honolulu Council budgets millions for homelessness
Published: Jun. 5, 2014 at 2:35 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Honolulu City Council has passed a $2.1 billion budget and more than $48 million is going to the homeless.

There were a few last minute changes namely regarding where the money is coming from. Of the $48 million going to homeless and affordable housing $3 million will go to the Housing First plans to help pay rent for chronically homeless people. There was $32 million added but it's coming from general obligation bonds which means the money comes with restrictions on where it can be spent.

Vice-Chair Ikaika Anderson was one who pushed to get that money through. He also criticized the State for only chipping in what he called a "measly" $1.5 million to the Housing First plan.

"A $1.5 million commitment toward this initiative is truly an insult. The State legislature repeatedly robs Honolulu's TAT (Transient Accommodations Tax), a significant portion of our excise tax money for rail, and they expect this City to do more with less and we do more with less," said Anderson, during the Council meeting. "The State does need to step up and here's hoping they do so."

State Homeless Coordinator Colin Kippen did testify to the Council before Anderson's remarks. Kippen does want the City and State to partner together to fight homelessness, although talking funding was above his pay grade.

Mayor Kirk Caldwell was happy overall with the budget although he does have concerns. The $32 million comes from general obligation bonds meaning it has to go to specific city owned projects to build housing capacity. Mayor Caldwell says that puts the city smack dab into the housing business which makes things much more complicated and takes longer.

"Any kind of restrictions or provisions on how we spend the money does make it more difficult for us to be as effective, efficient and react as quickly. We'll work within those restrictions," said Kirk Caldwell, Honolulu Mayor.

In addition $450,000 was also approved for public bathrooms in Chinatown.

Among the other budget highlights the Mayor pointed out was $132 for road repaving, $270 million for sewer work, $5 million to restore more bus routes and another $5 million for legacy parks projects.

The Council also raised the property tax rate 70 percent, but only for those people who own a house, not a condo, worth more than a million dollars and don't live in it themselves.

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