Mayor highlights affordable housing need in fifth State of the City

Mayor highlights affordable housing need in fifth State of the City
Published: Feb. 16, 2017 at 3:59 PM HST|Updated: Feb. 17, 2017 at 7:32 AM HST
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(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Mayor Kirk Caldwell unveiled his plan to re-invigorate affordable housing construction on Oahu in his fifth State of the City address Thursday evening.

"If we don't change the course that we've been on for a long period of time, this island becomes a de facto gated community, only for the exclusive few," he said to the audience at Honolulu Hale.

"We need to facilitate and stimulate 800 units of housing that's affordable every year, and this administration is committed to do that for the next four years."

The Mayor's plan includes changes in housing project regulations and increased incentives for builders.

"We got to focus with conviction on affordable housing and keep it affordable in the long term," Mayor Caldwell said in his address.  "Doesn't matter who builds it. What matters is that it's approved quicker and stays affordable longer."

The plan outlined regulations that require property owners and developers to set aside more affordable units for families in lower-income brackets than they currently do, while also keeping rent at lower rates for a longer time by extending existing guidelines from 10 years to 30.

Property owners and developers will be offered an array of incentives which include reduced or eliminating property taxes and other fees.

"We're going to waive sewer hookup fees per unit. That can be up to three to four thousand dollars per unit. We're gonna all park dedication fees. We're going to waive all department of planning application and permit fees," the mayor said.

"We're going to incentivize developers to build more units within a half a mile of the rail line by doing things like waiving permit fees, sewer hook-up fees and allowing them to build greater density and reduce the parking requirements," said Jesse Broder Van Dyke, Caldwell's communication director.

"I think the city should be imposing stringent requirements on the developers to ensure that the housing they provide in return for those incentives will be truly affordable," City Council Chair Ron Menor said after the address.

Caldwell also said the state should do its part to ease the affordable housing crisis. Gov. David Ige, who was present along with several state lawmakers, said his administration has also set its goals.

"Last year we developed our housing plan that establishes the goal of 10,000 housing units by 2020," Ige said. "So the numbers are similar."

Experts say 20,000 affordable housing units are needed island wide to accommodate Hawaii families.

The city has identified lots it plans to lease to developers to create more affordable housing. They include at the Pearlridge Transit Station, Ala Moana Transit Station, Leeward Pearl Harbor below the Rail Operations Center, and near Aala Park.

Other affordable housing incentives the mayor addressed include:

  • The city wants to change the restrictions on what percentage of units in new developments must be affordable.
  • Caldwell is proposing that all affordable units must remain below market for 30 years, whether they are for sale or rent.
  • To further encourage development, the city wants to waive park dedication fees, city planning application and permit fees, and real property tax increases for affordable rental projects.

Click here to view the speech on our Facebook.

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