New approaches to affordable housing, homelessness

Posted on Jan 30, 2019 in Capitol Connection, Featured
HOMELESS SOLUTIONS: Governor Ige with Duane Kurisu of Kahauiki Village and state homeless coordinator Scott Morishige.

HOMELESS SOLUTIONS: Governor Ige with Duane Kurisu of Kahauiki Village and state homeless coordinator Scott Morishige.

On islands where land is scarce and the cost of living high, providing affordable homes for our families has been one of the most challenging aspects of caring and looking out for each other. . . .With the help of the Legislature, our Congressional delegation, the counties, federal agencies, business and community service organizations, we have made significant strides in addressing homelessness. Together, we have reduced our homeless population for two consecutive years, for a total reduction of 18 percent. This includes decreases in every county, including key homeless groups such as families, children and veterans. Two years ago, only a third of those exiting homeless services went to permanent housing. That number has now increased to over 50 percent.

PARTNERSHIPS: Dr. Daniel Cheng and Queen's CEO Art Ushijima with the governor.

PARTNERSHIPS: Dr. Daniel Cheng and Queen’s CEO Art Ushijima with the governor.

More importantly, we have met this challenge as a community and not left it to government alone. For example, the Queen’s Medical Center has become the first hospital in the nation to place its most medically fragile, homeless patients into housing as part of the recovery process. In the last year and a half, the Queen’s Care Coalition team has worked with 112 individuals, placing 75 percent of them into stable housing. With us today is Dr. Daniel Cheng, who heads the Queen’s Care Coalition and the president and CEO of Queen’s Health Systems, Art Ushijima. I should also note that Lt. Gov. Josh Green will be the state’s new point person on leveraging private sector partnerships for the chronically homeless. He will work closely with Scott Morishige, the state’s overall homeless coordinator, who will continue to lead the state’s homeless efforts. I strongly believe that our overall response to homelessness must address both immediate concerns and its underlying cause: the lack of adequate affordable housing. That’s why this year’s budget includes $315 million for housing over the next two years. In the past four years, we’ve produced a total of 6,600 units with over 7,100 in the pipeline, 90 percent of which will be rentals.

- Rendering of a Maui affordable housing project near the Kahului Civic Center bus hub.

Rendering of a Maui affordable housing project near the Kahului Civic Center bus hub.

How do you make homes in Hawaii affordable? I believe you do it by thinking outside the box. That’s why we will be submitting legislation to build condominiums on state lands utilizing 99-year leases. These will include parcels along the transit route as well as on other underutilized state lands. This legislation will be critical to unlocking the potential for thousands of new affordable housing units to be built on state lands on all islands. The state will retain ownership of the land under these condos and determine the terms of resale if the owners decide to sell at a later date. In this way, we will be able to keep the units affordable, plan growth around those communities, create jobs, and make the most of unused state lands. My thanks to State Sen. Stanley Chang, whose input went a long way in helping us shape this initiative. On Maui, we also have a great example of how the state and county are working together to build a new transit hub at the Kahului Civic Center. Together, we are transforming underutilized state land into a vibrant new mixed-use project with plans for a major bus hub, multi-family affordable rental housing, senior housing and office space.

Read more in the February Capitol Connection newsletter.

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