Our housing crisis is the result of two problems. First, we don’t have enough housing for everyone; and second, our current housing policies lead to rampant speculation and illegal short-term rentals. We can build our way out of a shortage, but we can’t build our way out of bad policy.
Here’s what we need to do:
Develop social housing: I am a strong proponent of mixed-income social housing, a fiscally self-sustaining version of public housing. A key function of social housing is to provide accommodation that is affordable to people on low incomes. Limits to rent increases set by law mean that rents are kept affordable. Unlike in the private sector where tenancies are offered by the landlord and letting agent to whomever they choose, social housing is distributed according to a criteria of need developed by the government. Out of those who meet the criteria of need, legislation requires that certain groups be given reasonable preference.
Registered providers own and manage social housing. They tend to be non-commercial organizations such as local authorities or housing associations. Housing associations are independent, not-for-profit organizations that can use any profit they make to maintain existing homes and help finance new ones. Registered providers are financially regulated and funded by the government through agencies like the Hawaiʻi Public Housing Authority and the Hawaiʻi Housing Finance & Development Corporation, which is responsible for the construction of new social homes.
Increase Affordable Housing: Our district’s contribution to affordable housing has always been the student and workforce/faculty housing associated with the University of Hawaiʻi. I will fight to improve the conditions of student housing and increase available workforce/faculty housing.
Expand low income renters tax credits: Seventy-five percent of people in Hawaiʻi living at or near the poverty line now spend more than half of their incomes on rent, and more than half of Hawaiʻi’s renters are cost-burdened, spending more than 30 percent of their income on rent. The Low-Income Household Renters’ Credit was created in 1977 to provide meaningful tax relief to low- and moderate-income households in Hawaiʻi. In 1981, the Renters’ Credit was set to $50 per exemption. The income eligibility cut off was set to $30,000 in 1989, which was just above the median household income at the time. Neither of those levels have budged since then. Clearly, a $50 credit barely makes a dent in the average rent-payer’s burden; we must expand this credit to help keep working families sheltered.
Increase the tax on offshore real-estate investors: Local families who use houses as a place to live should not be taxed the same rate as speculators who treat housing as a source of profit with no interest in how their investments impact the pool of available housing for working families. To curb the practice of harmful speculation and to add money to the state’s coffers to help develop mixed social and low-income housing, the state should tax these investments at a rate high enough to cover the societal costs and burdens they incur. It’s simply a question of making investors their fair share for the profits they collect off of an important public resource: land.
Develop the urban core intelligently: I support community-driven planning and infill development so that we build in a thoughtful way that maximizes our limited resources, in particular land. Hawaiʻi has a limited carrying capacity, and sprawling, suburban developments like Hoʻopili are a tragic waste of space, of agricultural land and of potential. We need leaders in the legislature who will fight for intelligent development that will benefit future generations, not leaders who are interested in currying favor with developers by helping them to profit off of unsustainable developments that only help boost their bottom lines.
Intelligent development, by contrast, brings with it a host of opportunities for improving multiple aspects of life in Honolulu. Economical use of existing infrastructure and can act as a remedy for urban sprawl, but it must be paired with the establishment of sustainable infrastructure like urban gardens and green spaces for healthy living and food production, use of multi-modal transportation options to reduce urban congestion, and the implementation of renewable energy sources and efficient and sustainable architectural designs that make use of our natural resources, like our trade winds, to reduce energy consumption.