Friday, April 27, 2018


Including $34.7 million for ‘Ohana Zones, medical services, and a coordinated
statewide initiative

Honolulu, Hawaiʻi – Taking the lead on solving Hawai‘i's homeless crisis, the conference committee on Housing today passed SB 2401 SD2 HD1 CD1 and SB 2027 SD2 HD1 CD1 totaling $34.7 million to fund ‘Ohana Zones and support long overdue medical services for homeless populations statewide.

The conference committee passed:

·         $30 million for ‘Ohana Zones on three Oahu sites, and one each on Kaua‘i, Maui and Hawai‘i Island. Public lands will be selected by the Governor for the zones.
·         $1 million for an Emergency Department Assessment pilot program.
·         $1 million for a medical respite pilot program.
·         $800,000 for a new family assessment center.
·         $400,000 for two new Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) programs on Maui and Hawai‘i Island.

·         1.5 million for a Coordinated Statewide Homeless Initiative.

Rep. Della Au Belatti (Makiki, Tantalus, Papakōlea, McCully, Pāwa‘a, Mānoa) said lawmakers this session decided to take the lead on finding homeless solutions and ‘Ohana Zones are an important part of that concept.

"The $30 million for ‘Ohana Zones is a lump sum that we hope to partner with the private sector using Kahauiki Village as a model," said House Majority Leader Belatti. "This amount is our estimate of what the infrastructure and support services will cost in multiple sites across the state. The idea here is to be very flexible. What might work on Oahu might not be the best plan for one of the neighbor islands."

"Ten years ago we started looking into safe zones for our homeless population," said Brower, Chair of the House Housing Committee. "Many were reluctant to go into shelters or even permanent housing. This will provide a better option for many homeless people."

“The measures we passed appropriate millions of dollars to help eliminate the homeless problem and build affordable rentals," said Senator Will Espero (‘Ewa Beach, Ocean Pointe, ‘Ewa by Gentry, Iroquois Point, portion of ‘Ewa Villages), Chair of the Senate Committee on Housing. "The Governor now has all the resources and tools necessary to provide housing and to assist the many homeless advocates and organizations with their programs and services that will help families and individuals rebuild their lives. This year’s funding is just the beginning of the Legislature’s commitment to end homeless,”

Representative John M. Mizuno (Kalihi Valley, Kamehameha Heights, Lower Kalihi) said he is proud of the work lawmakers have done this session to support homeless initiatives.

"This has been the most comprehensive year ever in funding homeless initiatives," said Mizuno, Chair Health & Human Services Committee. "We are focused on addressing our homeless crisis rather than funding more homeless sweeps. We have focused our policies to provide our people in need with stability, a place to heal, and the ability to become self-sufficient."
“Thousands of homeless who are struggling on our streets will see their lives change greatly for the better through this bill. The public will also see a difference when they have their parks back, their sidewalks clear, and see much less suffering throughout our communities,” said Senator Josh Green (Kona, Ka‘u), Chair of the Senate Committee on Human Services.
Lawmakers last week provided $15 million to fund existing homeless service programs, $3 million more than requested by the Governor. The funds are in a lump sum rather than restricted to a specific program to allow the State Homeless Coordinator to have the ability take decisive action and use the funds where they are most needed.

They also appropriated $1 million for matching funds to the Hawaii Tourism Authority for homeless related projects. The nonprofit Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association will distribute the money for programs in resort areas.

The bills now move to a final vote in both Houses.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018


Units will be developed for struggling working families

Honolulu, Hawaiʻi –Today, Senate and House conferees agreed and voted on a comprehensive housing measure that takes a momentous step forward in addressing Hawai‘i's affordable rental housing crisis on all islands.  House Bill 2748 HD2 SD2 CD1 provides a total of $570 million which will generate more than 25,000 affordable units by the year 2030.  This will fulfill the goal of 22,500 affordable rental housing units set by the Legislature in 2016 via Act 127, Session Laws of Hawaiʻi 2016.
"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 (Waikīkī, Ala Moana).
This measure supports development of affordable rental housing for a wide range of households spanning low income families to those making up to 140 percent of the area median income (AMI).
"In addition to low income households, this measure targets Hawaiʻi's middle-class families," said Senate Housing Committee Chair Senator Will Espero (‘Ewa Beach, Ocean Pointe, ‘Ewa by Gentry, Iroquois Point, portion of ‘Ewa Villages). "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. We must support them by providing an affordable option for housing while they save for a home of their own."
House Bill 2748 HD2 SD2 CD1 contains four parts:
1.         Appropriates $200 million into the Rental Housing Trust Fund to generate approximately 1,600 affordable rental housing units for families at or below 80 percent AMI. 
The Rental Housing Revolving Fund (RHRF) provides equity gap low-interest loans or grants to qualified owners and developers for the development, pre-development, construction, acquisition or preservation of affordable rental housing.  Preference is given to projects that meet certain statutory criteria.  Included is a preference for projects that provide at least 5 percent of the total number of units for persons and families with incomes at or below 30 percent of the median family income.  Another preference is for projects that provide the maximum number of units for persons or families with incomes at or below 80 percent of the median family income.
At the end of Fiscal Year 2017, the RHRF had a balance of $156 million. This appropriation will more than double its corpus to assist low income families and individuals, including the homeless and special needs groups, in obtaining affordable rental housing.
2.         Expands the general excise tax exemption for construction of approximately 24,000 affordable rental units for families at or below 140 percent AMI.
The measure increases the general excise tax exemption for the construction of affordable rental units for households at or below 140 percent AMI, with at least 20 percent of those units available for households at or below 80 percent of the AMI. The exemption will increase from $7 million (the exemption amount enacted in 2017) to $30 million per year and will be extended from the year 2022 to 2030.  The total value of this expanded general excise tax exemption amounts to $360 million over 12 years.
This exemption is expected to result in the construction of approximately 24,000 affordable rental units. 
3.         Appropriates $10 million into the Dwelling Unit Revolving Fund (DURF)
DURF was established pursuant to Act 105, Session Laws of Hawaii 1970, which authorized the issuance of $125 million in general obligation bonds to carry out the purposes of the Housing Development Program. Funds may be used for the acquisition of real property; development and construction of residential, commercial and industrial properties; interim and permanent loans to developers; and any and all things necessary to carry out the purposes of the Housing Development Program, including administrative expenses.
DURF provides interim construction financing of affordable housing projects.  This appropriation will increase its corpus by 10 percent.
4.         Appropriates $50,000 to prepare an assessment of housing needs for persons with low or no income, such as the disabled and functionally challenged populations.
This appropriation commissions the Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corporation to determine the number of persons with special needs in Hawaii, identify the supportive services they may require and inventory the providers of supportive services statewide.
"Former State Senator the Rev. Bob Nakata deserves the credit for today's bill," said House Finance Chair Rep. Sylvia Luke, (Makiki, Punchbowl, Nu‘uanu, Dowset Highlands, Pacific Heights, Pauoa). "He has said that the Legislature needs to provide funding to create 22,000 units. This bill goes beyond that."
“Our affordable housing crisis demands we take tangible, meaningful action. With this measure, we are responding to the needs of our community – our families, children and low-income individuals – and providing long-term solutions that are feasible within the context of our state financial plan,” said Senate Ways and Means Chair Senator Donovan Dela Cruz (Mililani Mauka, Waipi‘o Acres, Wheeler, Wahiawa, Whitmore Village, portion of Poamoho).

The bill now moves to the full House and Senate for a final reading vote.

Photo Caption: The Rev. Bob Nakata, who has been a tirelessly advocate at the Legislature for construction and funding of affordable housing for the past two decades, said he was thankful for this bill to help the people of Hawaii. With him are Chairman of the House Housing Committee Representative Tom Brower (from left), Chairman of the Senate Housing Committee Will Espero, Chairwoman of the House Finance Committee Representative Sylvia J. Luke, and Chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee Donovan M. Dela Cruz.