State legislature approves 'momentous' $570M affordable housing deal

(Image: Hawaii State Legislature)
(Image: Hawaii State Legislature)
Updated: Apr. 24, 2018 at 4:51 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - State lawmakers approved a bill on Tuesday that allocates $570 million to creating thousands of affordable housing units in the Aloha State.

Lawmakers say House Bill 2748 will generate more than 25,000 affordable housing units by 2030, expanding living options for low-income families and those making up to 140 percent of the area median income (AMI).

"This is the largest appropriation made by the Legislature and demonstrates our relentless commitment to providing innovative solutions to meet the State's long-term housing demands" said House Housing Chair Representative Tom Brower, in a news release.

The bill, which is designed to incentivize private developers to build affordable housing, is made up of four major parts:

► It funnels $200 million into the Rental Housing Trust Fund to create around 1,600 affordable rental housing units for those who are at or below 80 percent AMI. The RHTF provides low-interest loans and grants for the development, construction, acquisition and preservation of affordable housing. The new funds will more than double its balance at the end of the 2017 fiscal year.

► It expands the general excise tax exemption for construction of approximately 24,000 affordable rental units for families at or below 140 percent AMI. The exemption will increase from $7 million to $30 million per year, and will be extended from 2022 to 2030. The total value of the expanded GET exemption will add up to $360 million over a 12-year period.

► It appropriates $10 million into the Dwelling Unit Revolving Fund, which can use the money to acquire and develop property, among other uses.

► It appropriates $50,000 to prepare an assessment of housing needs for people with either seriously low or nonexistent income, like people with disabilities.

"In addition to low income households, this measure targets Hawaii's middle-class families," said Senate Housing Committee Chair Senator Will Espero in a news release.

The Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corporation will be charged with determining the number of people with special needs in Hawaii, and identifying the supportive services they may need.

"These are working families who are not wealthy enough to afford a home in our expensive housing market, but do not qualify for public housing assistance," Espero said. "We must support them by providing an affordable option for housing while they save for a home of their own."

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