Faith Action for Community Equity (“FACE”) leaders fear that a Hawaii that is increasingly a playground only for the wealthy. Affordable housing continues to be one of the most critical issues for families on Oahu. A common refrain at almost every “talk story” meeting is the fear that our children will have to choose between living their life in Hawaii, or owning a home elsewhere. Many people felt that families losing their homes through the foreclosure crisis are making this problem worse.
On Oahu, we are intensely aware that decent affordable rentals are increasingly scarce. We feel that affordable housing is a key issue in wrestling that fear down. It has become more apparent that unrestrained development damages quality of life, especially through the work on the Windward and North Shore sides of the island. Leaders were clear that they want to pursue affordable housing without adding to suburban sprawl.
FACE sees Hawaii’s housing crisis as requiring a response from people of faith. The crisis has been driven by an increasing population, skyrocketing land values, and a dramatic decrease in the number of rental properties. All of these factors combine to force people out of the housing market and into overcrowded living situations and homelessness.
FACE has been working to alleviate Hawaii’s affordable housing crisis by increasing the State’s Rental Housing Trust Fund, supporting property tax breaks for fixed income homeowners, and fighting to save threatened rental housing like the Chinatown Gateway and Kukui Gardens.
- Won the creation of mandatory court-supervised mediation before a bank is allowed to foreclose – the most comprehensive law protecting Hawai’i homeowners from foreclosure in the state’s history. (What year?)
- Won an agreement with Bank of America for enforcement of face-to-face loan modification meetings in Hawaii. (2011)
- Won five million dollars ($5,000,000) in essential repairs for Mayor Wright Housing – including the restoration of hot water. (2011)
- Collaborated with leaders at Kuhio Park Terrace to complete the Request for Proposal (“RFP”) for its redevelopment, convincing the Hawaii Public Housing Authority (“HPHA”) to include criteria guaranteeing 1 to 1 unit replacement to preserve all affordable units. (2009)
- Won an agreement between the State of Hawaii, Carmel Partners & Kukui Gardens Corporation, securing eighty-two million dollars to ensure the long-term affordability of 800 plus units at Kukui Gardens. Also acquired funds for Kukui Gardens from the 2009 Stimulus Package after some of the original funding was lost in the economic downturn. (2006-2009)
- Created a residents’ organization in the City’s affordable housing complexes, working with residents to preserve the affordability of the 2300 plus units in perpetuity while creating legal avenues for residents to have a say in any transfers of ownership. (2008-2009)
- Increased the percentage of the conveyance tax going into the State Housing Trust Fund from 30% to 50% in 2006. Assisted in further increasing it to 65% in 2007.
- Joined Partners in Care to increase the overall Homeless Service budget in the State of Hawaii by $10 million. (2006 and 2007)
- Changed the zoning restrictions on Ohana Units to allow larger spaces to be converted into housing for relatives. (2006)
- Crafted a resident hiring plan to enforce HUD Section 3 for work in connection to the Kalihi Valley Homes renovation. (1999)
- Obtained the commitment of $47 million from the Housing and Community Development Corporation of Hawaii (HCDCH) in order to renovate Kalihi Valley Homes (KVH), including emergency health and safety repairs such as fixing the sewer lines. (1997-1999)
Please click on the following link for the Housing Documents: Housing Documents
Four Elements of the Housing Crisis: We identify four distinct concerns about the crisis, each hurting our people in different ways.
There are two kinds of homelessness:
- Working Poor: Homeless individuals who have been forced into a tough situation through economics, and who are working, and otherwise stable. These people just need rental housing that is targeted to lower-income levels such as the $ represented by the charter amendment.
- Chronic homeless: People who are homeless off and on due to mental illness, drug addiction and family issues, etc. These people will only ever be housed by building supportive service housing, which is effective.
2. Rental Housing:
This is the biggest gap in policy and must be targeted to help the lower income individuals. In addition, we should avoid the mistakes of the past, and make sure that we incorporate mixed income housing construction so that we avoid building ghettos.
A. Preservation: Through preservation of city-owned buildings and other subsidized properties, preservation of buildings has proven to be a less expensive than demolishing and construction of new buildings and, even better, easier to accomplish.
B. Build more: We should create and uphold policies which actively encourage new construction of affordable properties.
Cost policies: There are programs like the new charter money, the underutilized city bond $, tax increment financing in special districts, and the federal section 108 loans (currently underutilized), as well as the old standards of CDBG, and HOME.
Non-cost policies: There are zoning reforms – like enforcement of the unilateral agreements, or even more strict exclusionary zoning, especially specifically designated areas like Kakaako.
Redevelop public housing: The City and County of Honolulu can support the development of new affordable properties on existing sites.
3. Property Taxes:
Hawaii, like many resort areas, face runaway land values, and things get worse when the housing market is up. Yet many local homeowners are on fixed incomes and purchased their homes for far less than they are now assessed for. Other cities have created property tax breaks for residents at certain income levels and others have frozen property taxes for certain incomes, and/or age groups. We need to do BETTER. Honolulu could establish a ceiling for property taxes at the current level for lower income families and then capture the real value if the property sells. A measure like this would also relieve the burden on families struggling to stay out of foreclosure and possibly eviction.
Use public transportation to concentrate development and investment into the urban core. We are increasingly victims of sprawl, and the biggest thing we can do to combat it is to build more public transportation systems to ensure that transit-oriented development accompanies it.