I am a longtime resident of Chinatown Gateway Plaza in downtown and part of a 5,000-plus tenant constituency that lives in the 12 City-owned affordable housing buildings.

We also represent 65 elderly tenants of the Kahuku Elderly Housing, a property owned by the City and County of Honolulu. In 2007, former Mayor Mufi Hannemann proposed selling these homes to reduce the City’s financial burdens, and in the process, leaving the residents, the true stakeholders, completely out of the discussion and further deepening the people’s distrust in government.

As a response to this controversy, tenants organized and formed OH-NO, (Ohana Housing Network Oahu), an established non-profit coalition of residents in affordable housing aimed at protection and preservation of existing City housing. 

In 2009, with help from the efforts of FACE, (Faith Action for Community Equity), an organization of interfaith alliances, and unanimous City Council support, Resolution 08-108 was adopted, a key milestone to OH-NO’s success in drafting policy to address these affordable housing concerns.

The goal of Resolution 08-108 is to underscore key elements lacking in previous administrative policy and vision affecting these City properties, namely: 1) to protect and preserve current affordable housing, 2) to keep these properties affordable in perpetuity, and 3) to allow for public transparency, dialogue and resident involvement in major business and/or legislative decisions, including keeping these properties affordable, in perpetuity, in the event of any sale.

Honolulu, with the highest-density population, is the only county in the islands with no accountable or streamlined department to effectively address our housing issues. Meanwhile, the crisis grows, the community is in dire need of leadership, and homelessness is rampant.

With Mayor Carlisle’s support of having a housing agency, Resolution 08-108 will be a legitimate guiding principle to comprehensive, coherent, and conscience-driven policy. 

The status quo needs change.

Most recently the Charter Amendment enabling the Office of Housing Amendment was successfully supported in the 2009 ballot. This move is a call to action, a sign that people are demanding direct responsibility, accountability and conscience from our government to reflect the people’s values and invest in our future.

In response, we the residents will do our best to work with Mayor Carlisle and City Council to ensure that this decision is the timeliest, the most sensible, and the most productive move to meet Honolulu’s housing needs now and for generations to come.