From the governor: More housing for Hawai‘i’s peoplePosted on May 31, 2022 in Capitol Connection, Featured, Main
When he took office, Governor Ige asked the same question as everyone else: What will it take to build more affordable housing in Hawai‘i? Acting on the advice of industry leaders, his administration streamlined the system and provided the financing tools to make projects feasible — and still affordable for the average person. Now, with the prospect of landmark legislative funding for housing, homelessness and the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, Capitol Connection takes a look at the progress made — and the foundation laid — to help local residents. With COVID-19 numbers climbing, it’s time to celebrate our wins where we can and move forward with caution and hope.
Q: What concerns you most about the latest rise in COVID-19 cases?
A: The steady increase in cases tells us there’s a lot of virus circulating in the community. We’re not going to mandate anything for now, but we encourage people to wear their masks, both indoors and outdoors, if they’re going into situations with many people. The federal government is providing more free tests, so the sooner you can test — even for mild symptoms — the sooner you can get treatment. And, of course, people should get vaccinated and boosted.
Q: A year ago, could you have imagined the state would have such a dramatic economic rebound? What accounts for that?
A: We’ve exceeded all the economic forecasts from a year ago and earlier when we were planning for furloughs and layoffs. Hawai‘i is still very high on the lists of both North American and international travelers. We were able to preserve our reputation for aloha through the Safe Travels program and working closely with our visitor industry partners. I know some people felt we were being too strict with masking and other requirements, but that all helped to bring back travelers to the islands to help our economy.
Q: Where do you see the major legislative appropriations doing the most good?
A: I’m excited about the funding for the Hawaiian Homes program and for affordable housing in general. The $600 million for the Department of Hawaiian Homes Lands is even more meaningful because of the increased options we’ve made available to beneficiaries in recent years, such as rentals and subsistence agriculture leases. I did ask the state attorney general to redouble efforts to settle the Kalima lawsuit for past DHHL claims because of the positive financial condition of the state.
Q: Why has it been so important to you to address the housing demand for local residents? What will the $300 million funding for the Rental Housing Revolving Fund (RHRF) do?
A: That kind of funding allows us to continue the momentum and the strategy we’ve followed over the past eight years to accelerate building affordable rentals where 100% of the occupants are local residents, not foreign buyers. When I took office, the state hadn’t been producing enough housing to keep up with local demand. I have three kids, and we’ve talked about whether they could ever afford to live here. Our housing team has made changes in policies and financing tools to incentivize production for more affordables in every county. It’s resulted in adding nearly 11,000 housing units statewide by 2020 and, by the end of this year, we’ll have added 3,000 more units, either completed or in the pipeline.
Q: What is your reaction to the leak of the U.S. Supreme Court’s draft to overturn Roe v. Wade?
A: The landmark Roe v. Wade decision in 1973 was the right one. Any action to overturn the ruling is wrong. No matter what the Supreme Court decides, I will fight to protect a woman’s right to make her own healthcare decisions. We were the first state in the nation to ensure a woman’s right to choose. It’s sad that a woman’s right to control her own body has become a focus of political polarization.