Senate bill calls for team to develop, oversee affordable rentals plan

Senate bill calls for team to develop, oversee affordable rentals plan
Published: Feb. 29, 2016 at 10:15 PM HST|Updated: Feb. 29, 2016 at 10:41 PM HST
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State bill 2561 (Image: Hawaii News Now)
State bill 2561 (Image: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - According to a state housing study, one family in five needs public housing or rental assistance. By 2026 the state will need at least 22,500 affordable rental units. Senate Bill 2561 calls for them to be ready for occupancy over the next ten years.

"If we don't commit ourselves to action and we don't commit ourselves to a goal, we'll find ourselves very quickly at 2026 with a severe housing crisis. We already are in a housing crisis," said Sen. Jill Tokuda, who chairs the Senate Ways and Committee.

She said thus far, affordable housing ideas have happened independently with no all encompassing plan from state and county leaders. The bill calls for the creation of a Special Action Team made up of government officials, developers and housing advocates. it would be led by the Lt. Governor.

"This bill will help to produce the housing that will keep people from falling into homelessness," said the Rev. Bob Nakata of Faith Action for Community Equity.

The team would decide on what kind of units to build, where to build them, and how many would be ready on an annual basis.

Real Estate consultant Rick Cassiday said most of the affordable rental would be on Oahu.

"Since we're building the rail, what you would do is put the bulk of these units around the rail stations," he said. "The way you would do that is use public land, public financing, and public entitlements."

But Sen. Sam Slom said the legislation lacks short term specifics.

"When they talk about building rental housing, what are you talking about? Three years, four years, five years? What's going to happen now?" he said.

Tokuda said $100,000 would be set aside for administrative costs for the Special Action Team.  The group would look at how other states complete affordable housing projects in a year or two, whereas in Hawaii it can take five to ten year.

"That's too long for our people. You look outside -- people need homes now," she said.

The bill now goes to the full Senate for a vote.

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