Lawmakers propose task force to tackle affordable housing shortage

Lawmakers propose task force to tackle affordable housing shortage
Published: Mar. 21, 2016 at 8:46 PM HST|Updated: Mar. 22, 2016 at 2:45 AM HST
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(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

Already in the midst of a housing crisis, it's estimated over the next nine years Hawaii will need 65,000 additional units to meet demand.  Experts say one-third of those need to be rentals.

Between 2004 and 2013 only about 4,500 affordable rentals were added to the market.

"Not enough supply of housing, a lot of people looking for housing that really pushes up the price of housing," said Gladys Marrone, CEO Building Industry Association, Hawaii.

Finding a place to live that doesn't cost an arm and a leg can be nearly impossible. Most people in Hawaii are shelling out half their paycheck on rent.

"It's absolutely shameful that the state has allowed the situation to get to the point where it's at," said Alex Santiago, Health and Human Services Advocates.

SB-2561 would create a new task force headed up by the Lieutenant Governor.  The goal:  facilitate the construction of 22,500 affordable rental units over the next 10 years.

Marrone says she supports the idea but for that kind of growth, Honolulu in particular, needs major infrastructure improvements.

"I think the most important part is sewer capacity.  If they're going to go high density around the transit oriented development line then sewer capacity is huge. It's a requirement really," said Marrone.

Financing the plan is another issue.  Developer Stanford Carr says money to build that many properties just isn't there.  He says to reach the state's goal contractors would need $2.2 billion in junior debt financing.  That's typically funded by the conveyance tax which is currently capped at $38-million/yr.

Even still, some believe if the state makes the issue a top priority many of the challenges can be overcome.

"I think this can be met.  It's just going to be do they have the political willpower to do this," said Santiago.

The legislature has proposed setting aside $100,000 to set up the task force.

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