State Sen. Suzanne Chun Oakland has introduced an omnibus bill that seeks tens of millions of dollars to develop low-income housing in Hawaii, including tiny apartments.
Meanwhile, Honolulu City Councilman Ron Menor has sponsored a resolution to spur the city to create affordable housing using shipping containers.
The proposals reflect intensifying political pressure to address the need for cheaper housing in Hawaii, where a housing shortage helped drive the median price of a home in Honolulu over $700,000 last year.
Kevin Andrews, President of Blue Star Steel Corp., with one the small homes that he makes.
Cory Lum/Civil Beat
Although Hawaii’s construction industry has been on the upswing, relatively little has been built for low-income residents. The state’s Kakaako redevelopment agency approved an 84-unit low-income rental complex earlier this week, but the percentage of recently approved units in Kakaako that are affordable for low-income residents still hovers around 5 percent.
Chun Oakland’s measure seeks $80 million to subsidize the development of affordable housing, $15 million to develop micro-apartments and $3 million to support Housing First programs that help get chronically homeless people off the streets.
The bill has the support of several lawmakers, including Sens. Will Espero, Brickwood Galuteria, Donovan Dela Cruz, Kalani English, Breene Harimoto and Gil Riviere.
Chun Oakland also introduced a measure that would allow taxpayers to donate money for the production of low-income rental housing when they pay their taxes.
At the city level, Menor’s resolution asks the mayor to use shipping containers to build low-income housing and explore the possibility of using state land.
Last fall, Menor introduced a resolution to allow homeowners to rent additional units — known as ohana units — to non-family members. The City Council adopted it in December, but it could be another year before the law is changed. The Council is currently mulling the mayor’s proposed affordable housing strategy and has an informational briefing on inclusionary zoning scheduled for Monday.
“The need for affordable housing in our islands has reached crisis proportions,” Menor said in a press release. “I have been approached by developers interested in using shipping containers. However, land is scarce for such projects and this is where the city can take the lead.”