Push policies to allow more homes
POSTED on StarAdvertiser.com: 01:30 a.m. HST, Nov 19, 2014
So much demand, so little supply. That’s the dire bottom line when it comes to truly affordable housing for Hawaii’s families — and unless work on policy changes begins today to address the shortfall, a growing number of keiki o ka aina of this and future generations will be forced out of Hawaii.
This alarm in the local housing crisis was sounded at Saturday’s daylong Housing Summit, focusing on how to produce and retain housing, especially rentals, that local workers can afford. It drew some 220 people with diverse interests, including government officials, politicians, developers and ministers.
A gamut of things must start taking root today — including the political will and leadership to drive harder bargains to produce housing that more closely reflects Hawaii’s working-family realities. Some 24,000 more housing units are needed in the coming years, with three-fourths of that needed for those earning less than 80 percent of area median income (AMI), or about $76,650 for a family of four.
Essential will be creative thinking as well as favorable eyes on new options, such as:
» Easing restrictions on Oahu homeowners on the number and types of accessory dwelling units, or ADUs, allowed on their property.
Now gaining momentum in the City Council and city administration, this idea to help address the affordable rental demand would open the ADUprocess to more neighborhoods, allow for detached-unit ADUs, and make units available to nonrelatives. Under current “ohana zoning” allowed in certain Oahu neighborhoods, an ADU must be attached or part of an existing dwelling, and be occupied by relatives.
More discussion will be needed, of course, on the ramifications of easing ADU rules: How far it should go and what parameters should be set so as not to unduly burden and disrupt residential neighborhoods. But it’s a concept worth pursuing, and the Caldwell administration rightly sees it as a major component of its Islandwide Housing Strategy.
» Increasing the length of time that affordable units must remain affordable, and lowering the definition of “affordable” and “reserved” housing.
Currently, government mostly requires that affordability be retained anywhere between just five to 15 years; that needs to increase to at least 30 to 60 years, as boldly proposed by the city administration. Also, project approvals should be conditioned with a higher percentage of units in the target 80 percent AMI range.
In Kakaako, the “reserved housing” definition is too high: up to 140 percent of AMI. It is here, in fact, that Gov.-elect David Ige has publicly pledged more help for working families.