Affordable housing: Transforming spaces, changing livesPosted on May 31, 2022 in Capitol Connection, Featured, Main
The housing outlook for local residents is looking a lot brighter than it did eight years ago — and not only because of this year’s significant appropriations from the state legislature. The transformation started in 2015 when Governor Ige brought together a working group of builders, nonprofits and housing advocates to address the state’s housing crunch. “The governor’s goal was to accelerate production so people can truly call Hawai‘i home,” said Denise Iseri-Matsubara, executive director of the Hawai‘i Housing and Finance Development Corporation. “What made things work is the governor’s balanced approach to addressing the issues. He really listened to what needed to be done, then empowered his people to make it happen. That kind of collaboration laid a good foundation for the future: developers, housing advocates and elected officials working together to solve these problems.”
The result is a growing list of affordable rental and for-sale units, adding thousands of housing choices for kamaʻāina so they can stay in Hawai‘i. It reflects a major change in streamlined policies, increased funding, and improved financing tools that make sense for both the builders of housing units and the people who need them. “Our main goal is to keep the pipeline of affordable housing projects flowing for our working families, kūpuna and individuals building their careers,” said Iseri-Matsubara. It was the governor’s working group that came up with the goal of building 10,000 housing units by 2020 — a goal that we surpassed. By the time the governor leaves office, the state will have added 3,000 more housing units completed or in the pipeline.
Kevin Carney, EAH Housing vice president, praised the new approaches, based on his company’s 25 years of working with four governors’ administrations. “Governor Ige’s leadership opened the lines of communication between housing developers and various state agencies,” he said. “It had a positive impact on the legislature, which has allocated an unprecedented amount of funds for the state’s Rental Housing Revolving Fund since the governor has been in office.” Michael Costa, president and CEO of Highridge Costa, agreed. “In the 30 years that Highridge Costa has created affordable housing, we have never had stronger support from a state governor’s office.”
A recent example is Hale Kālele, an all-affordable rental complex at a prime location for families earning no more than 60% of area median income (AMI) a year. For a two-person household that translates to a maximum of $58,020 a year; for a family of four, it’s $72,480. Rents initially are running from $664 to $1,480 a month for a two-bedroom unit, $570 to $1,250 for a one bedroom and $542 to $1,177 for a studio. Some of the lowest prices are available to those at 30% AMI. Hale Kālele marks the first-ever partnership between HHFDC, the Hawai‘i Judiciary and local developer Kobayashi Group. In addition to the affordable rentals, a separate part of the complex is home to a juvenile services center and shelter. “This project is significant because it took an aging building on under-utilized state land and transformed it into new affordable rentals and a new center and shelter for our at-risk youth,” said Iseri-Matsubara. “Today we celebrate a win for our hard-working kama‘aina residents and their families,” said the governor.