When it comes to providing affordable living options in Hawaii, people always talk about finding a solution. But real estate investment trusts, or REITs, have been taking action to increase the number of available housing units. They invest in affordable, workforce and student housing projects.

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That is why we applaud Gov. David Ige for his decision to veto Senate Bill 301, which would impose new taxes on REITs. In his veto message, the governor noted, “Hawaii needs to be a place that is able to attract investment capital in order to create jobs and a sustainable economy.”

We agree — and REITs are a significant source of investment capital for Hawaii. The governor’s veto action ensures this vital stream of money and resources will continue to flow into our islands.

One of the major issues facing Hawaii has been rental housing for the residents of Hawaii. REITs are an important group who are making a difference.

One of our clients, Douglas Emmett, a REIT operating in Hawaii, just finished the $120 million expansion of Moanalua Hillside Apartments in Aiea, which now provides nearly 500 additional workforce rental units for those making between 80%-120% of the median area income. They are adding another 500 additional workforce rental units in the downtown area over the next few years.

Kapolei Lofts, a $140 million project also built by a REIT, provides hundreds of workforce housing rentals, and Hale Mahana, a $110 million REIT-built property provides housing for nearly 600 students at University of Hawaii.

Airport Construction with workers and cement being pumped for foundations.

Construction work at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport. The author says REITS fund major projects locally.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Although the capital is coming from the mainland, let us not forget about all the local jobs created when REITs build and maintain these projects.

General contractors, small businesses and the trade unions in the construction industry are major drivers of Hawaii’s economy. When REITs fund projects, these contractors provide jobs, allowing kamaaina families to support their family members.

REIT investments ensure we continue to see homes and buildings under construction and job creation, indicators of economic growth and vitality throughout our state. Moreover, many of these REIT investments generate significant general excise taxes on construction costs and equally important, they generate significant incremental annual GET paid on the rents for the thousands of new apartments and student housing units.

More workforce rental housing, jobs and increased annual GET tax revenue? No wonder the governor is sending a clear message that Hawaii welcomes those who want to invest in a better quality of life for local residents.

We hope more REITs invest in our island home so that we can continue to work toward achieving our affordable housing goals.

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