For those who want to live in Hawai‘i, probably no issue is more challenging than finding a decent, affordable place to live. And probably no issue challenges us as a society more than the daily sight of those who are now living on our streets and in our parks.
We have dedicated more money to mental health treatment and services, including to our homeless population. We have initiated the largest annual increase in production of affordable housing with thousands of new units coming to market. We’re on track to meet our goal of 10,000 new housing units by 2020, with at least 40 percent affordable. And this session, I’m requesting $100 million to maintain the momentum and produce more affordable homes across the state.
Also, it has been my firm belief that the state must remain committed to developing and delivering Hawaiian homelands to beneficiaries. In 2016, my administration provided $24 million in funding to the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands. This was the highest level of funding in the department’s 95-year history and more than double what had been set aside previously. For its part, Hawaiian Home Lands has been ramping up development of vacant and turn-key lots. More than 220 lots were awarded in 2017 and that number will more than double in 2018. We’ve also worked hard with the department to spend down federal funds and identify alternative sources of revenue that can be used to sustain the agency over time.
Our “Housing First” policy focuses on transitional housing as a way to get people into permanent housing. The new Kaka‘ako Family Assessment Center moves families off the streets and into permanent housing in less than 90 days. A “special team” in public housing reduced the vacant unit turnaround time from 267 days to 7 days. And our landlord summits increased the number of landlords willing to rent to families transitioning out of homelessness. There are significant signs that these policies are starting to make a difference. Homelessness is down 9 percent statewide — the first decline in eight years. Our budget request also includes $15 million in additional funding for Housing First initiatives, outreach services and maintaining safety in public places.
We also know how important community partners have been in tackling this challenge. Take Kahauiki Village, a permanent housing project for homeless families launched by local businessman and philanthropist Duane Kurisu. Duane brought together city, state, nonprofits and businesses to make the village a reality in record time. The first 30 families recently moved in.