Legislation backed by groups who want to reduce homelessness and create more affordable housing cleared the Senate Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday.

The four bills — plus a fifth that was absorbed into one of the other measures — now head to the Senate floor for a full vote.

If the House of Representatives then chooses to acccept the Senate’s changes (all the measures originated in the House), they would be sent to Gov. David Ige for his signature. Given that several of the governor’s own departments approve of the bills, his final support is likely.

2907 Ala Ilima Street. Salt Lake. Honolulu. Housing. 16 july 2015. photograph Cory Lum/Civil Beat
All of the 28 two-bedroom units are empty in the Salt Lake Apartments because the Hawaii Public Housing Authority doesn’t have enough money to fix them. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Or, if the House disagrees with Senate changes, the bills could be sent to a conference committee during the two-week period at the end of April when the two chambers work to hash out differences in legislation.

The measures include House Bill 2244, which is the primary vehicle for funding various housing programs.

It appropriates money to the Rental Housing Trust Fund, to the Rental Housing Revolving Fund and for repair and maintenance of the Hawaii Public Housing Authority‘s existing public housing stock.

It also directs money to a rental assistance program known as “rapid re-housing,” which is coordinated by the state’s Department of Human Services to work with homeless people who are ready to rent permanently.

HB 2244 also appropriates money for continued implementation of the state’s Housing First program and its expansion to the neighbor islands.

Dollar figures continue to be left blank in that bill, however, as do figures for housing in homelessness programs in House Bill 1700, the state budget bill (a measure that will be heard by Ways and Means on April 5).

Tents and other belongings along the banks of the Kapalama Canal. 19 may 2015. photograph Cory Lum/Civil Beat
Tents and other belongings along the banks of the Kapalama Canal before the city fenced the area in. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

But that’s typical and is done, as Ways and Means Chair Jill Tokuda explained Tuesday, so the bills can “continue to move forward for consideration.”

HB 2244 received supporting testimony from Rachael Wong, DHS director; Scott Morishige, the governor’s coordinator on homelessness; the Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corporation; and the Land Use Research Foundation of Hawaii, private nonprofit research and trade association whose members include major Hawaii landowners and developers.

Tokuda’s committee amended the bill to fund a full-time position to support state housing programs and inserted duplicative language from House Bill 1733, which was to fund DHS to administer the Housing First and Rapid Re-housing programs.

Groups supporting funding of the programs include Catholic Charities Hawaii, Hawaii Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice and Partners in Care.

Other bills getting WAM’s green light were House Bill 2166, which expands the low income-household renters’ income tax credit based on adjusted gross income and filing status.

Hawaii Capitol Building construction fence1. 23 march 2016.
Legislators and the governor have said addressing homelessness and affordable housing are top priorities this year. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Americans for Democratic Action supports the bill, but the Tax Foundation of Hawaii testified that a better way to help people is to adjust state income tax rates “so those taxpayers will not need to pay tax or file returns.”

HB 2166 was amended to include Department of Taxation estimates of the revenue impact on the state — $11.2 million.

House Bill 2305 is also moving along. It’s intended to help the state’s Dwelling Unit Revolving Fund and the use of the fund, which provides loans and grants to finance infrastructure improvements in areas of planned growth.

The state Office of Planning likes the bill, mentioning the expectation of transit-oriented development around Honolulu rail stations.

House Bill 2293 also got the committee’s approval. It is designed to “enable” the HHFDC to develop mixed-use developments in partnership with state and county departments and agencies. The agency supports the bill, as do two other organizations, the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii and the Hawaii Association of Realtors.

“Hawaii is in dire need of housing,” according to Realtors testimony that pointed to data from the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism indicating that Hawaii will need nearly 66,000 housing units to meet long-term demand over the next 10 years.

Another housing-related measure, House Bill 2638, will be heard by Ways and Means on Friday. It would authorize the Hawaii Public Housing Authority to impose (in most cases) maximum rental periods of five years for state low-income housing projects. The rates would havee to be fixed for the entire term of the lease.

There are other measures at the Legislature still alive to address homelessness and affordable housing.

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