The Office of Hawaiian Affairs & The Department of Hawaiian Home Lands commit to a partnership…

to create housing for all Hawaiians

November 2011 KA WAI OLA COLUMN

`Ano`ai kakou…  On September 21, 2011, the OHA Board of Trustees held a historic joint meeting with the nine-member Hawaiian Home Lands Commission to discuss ways to expand our roles in creating housing opportunities for Hawaiians.  The meeting prompted a great deal of discussion about the ways trustees and commissioners could work together to increase housing opportunities for all Hawaiians.

OHA and DHHL have a long history of working together to create homeownership opportunities for Hawaiian
families.  For example, we worked together to house 279 Hawaiian families in the Kānehili subdivision in Kapolei
and 19 others in the new Kaupuni community in Wai‘anae.

OHA has also contributed $500,000 to a joint effort with DHHL to renovate Kalaniana‘ole Hall in Moloka‘i; $667,000 to rebuild Kawānaanakao Gym on the Big Island; and $3 million to build the 85-unit Waimanalo Kupuna Housing.  In addition, OHA has provided $3 million annually to cover the debt service on bond funding of approximately $40 million on various DHHL projects.  And in 1994, OHA set aside $20 million for down payment and home repair loans for homeowners and those on the waiting list.

According to the Star-Advertiser (9/23/11) Hawaii is one of the bottom states when it comes to owning a home and renting.  Hawaii was the highest in the nation for the median cost of a home, at $525,400, compared with West Virginia, which ranked the lowest at $95,100.  The national average was $179,900.

Our median rent was first in the U.S. at $1,291, compared with West Virginia, which came in last at $571.  The median rent in the nationwide was $855.

Among our islands, Oahu had the highest monthly rent at $1,363, while the Big Island had the lowest at $972.  The percentage
of multigenerational households here was the highest in the country at 7.2 percent.

According to OHA’s Kauhale: Native Hawaiians and Housing report (9/21/11), Native Hawaiians:

  • Experience a disproportionately high rates of unsheltered homelessness and make up a significant portion of the population in shelters;
  • Spend a significant amount of their income on housing; and
  • Must compete for both rental and homeownership opportunities in an inflated market.

Our local people are also faced with the fact that landlords are aware that the federal government supplements housing for military families and are also providing them with a cost of living allowance (COLA).  Given these benefits, military families are able to pay the high rents charged by landlords, while our local people are not.

I believe the solution lies in partnering with other advocates and pooling our resources to address the core issue of homelessness – the lack of affordable rentals and homes.

Going forward, the key to success will be to think outside of the narrow vision of building only single family homes.  We must build townhomes where more than one family can live in, nice apartments or transitional housing units for single family members and Kupuna.

I look forward to working closely with the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands Director and its Commissioners in the coming years to vastly improve the housing conditions for all of our Hawaiian people.

Aloha Ke Akua and Imua Hawaii nei.

The dangers of 201-G fast-track affordable housing developments


Source: January 2005 Ka Wai Ola o OHA Article

`Ano`ai kakou…  With housing prices in Hawaii climbing out of reach for even middle-income families, the dream of owning a home is becoming just that – a dream.

The state agency in charge of tackling Hawaii’s affordable housing shortage is the Housing and Community Development Corporation of Hawaii (HCDCH).  The corporation has many programs to help families get into affordable homes.  What many people don’t know is that they also have a powerful tool to encourage private developers to build more affordable homes.

State Law 201-G-118 authorizes HCDCH to fast-track the development of housing projects by exempting them from all statutes, ordinances, charter provisions, and rules of any governmental agency relating to planning, zoning, construction standards for subdivisions, development and improvement of land, and the construction of units on the land.  The point of 201-G is to allow a developer to bypass the lengthy process normally required to develop a property if they promised to keep some of the homes they build priced below market.  

One of the big problems with 201-G development projects is that the counties councils have only 45-days to either approve or disapprove the project.  The Counties also do not have the power to modify the plans or specifications based on community input.  All they can do is approve it or reject it.  If the county council does not disapprove the project by the 46th day of the project’s submittal, it will automatically be considered “approved.”

In recent months, the County of Maui has had mixed reactions to proposals for 201-G projects.  According to an article by Harry Eagar in The Maui News (12/05/04), the Ka’anapali Development Corp. is preparing an environmental impact statement for a 750-unit residential project at Wainee and things look as if it will go smoothly.  However, developer Kent Smith’s 201-G affordable housing project at Puunoa was shot down by the Maui County Council in November of 2004.  One of the big objections, especially from the administration of Mayor Alan Arakawa, concerned the potential traffic problems that Smith’s Puunoa housing project would cause.  But, since the law does not allow the counties to modify the HCDCH’s preliminary plans, all Maui County could do was approve it or disapprove it.  What’s lost is the ability of the county and state to specify what lands ought to be in housing.

Edwin Tanji, City Editor for The Maui News (11/26/04) noted in his column that Maui County Council Member Charmaine Tavares defined one of the critical elements of the issue.  She said that the applicable state law, 201-G-118, is designed to allow use of agricultural land for affordable housing because under the economic demands of the marketplace there is little other choice.  “Where do the developers go? They have to go to agricultural land,” she said.  But if urban lands have hit peak values, the alternative is land that is not urban, such as the 235 acres of fallow former sugar cane lands at Puunoa.

This should be a real concern for the Hawaiian community.  With developable urban lands getting scarcer, what lands do you think developers are going to try to build on next?  We should all be concerned that Kuleana and ceded lands will be next on the developers’ list and be vigilant for any new projects near and dear to us.

We need to take another look at 201-G and go back to its original purpose, which is to fast-track the construction of more affordable housing.  The law should never be used by developers as a way to get around the zoning or planning process.  Community input and scrutiny of the process must be protected.

Also, affordable homes are defined as those below market value.  Unfortunately, the median price for a previously owned single-family home on Oahu was $485,000 as of October 2004.  So, theoretically, a developer could sell a home for as high as $400,000 and still call it affordable if it’s below the market value for that area.

State Representative Sol Kaho`ohalahala is currently looking at the 201-G’s intent and hopes to close any loopholes and make positive changes.  Hopefully something can be done to balance the greater community’s need for affordable housing while protecting us against detrimental developments.  Have a safe, happy, and prosperous 2005!