Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell delivered his fifth State of the City address Thursday evening.
While he discussed the need to complete the full rail transit system to Ala Moana, complete with 21 stations, his primary focus centered around creating more affordable housing.
The city is trying to spur development of affordable homes by possibly offering incentives to developers, especially if they build near the rail line.
In delivering his plan to provide housing to those most in need, the mayor outlined a strategy he calls inclusionary housing.
The plan would require property owners and developers to make available a larger percentage of affordable units, and to keep rent at a lower rate for a longer period of time.
“During the next four years, this administration is going to focus laser-like on getting more affordable housing built,” Caldwell said. “If we don’t change the course that we’ve been on for a long period of time, this island becomes a de facto gated community, only for the exclusive few.”
Part of the mayor’s plan includes more regulation, which he knows developers won’t like, but in exchange, developers and landowners would be offered incentives that include the waiving of sewer, park, and permitting fees.
Real property tax increases would be waived during construction if the development includes affordable units.
Real property tax payments for affordable units would be waived during a proposed 30-year affordable rental period, up from the 10 years required now.
“The bottom line is we’ve got to focus with conviction on affordable housing, and keep it affordable over the long term, and reverse the trend that has existed from before I was born and before all of you were born,” Caldwell said. “Otherwise the problem just compounds, and we have a community where our keiki cannot afford to live here.”
If approved by the city council, the mayor says the plan could provide up to 800 affordable rental units each year for the next four years.
“I think it’s both a tough sell and reasonable. I think it shows the mayor’s frustration that even at his level, he can’t see the type of housing being built now despite all of our giveaways to help local people, it’s not happening now,” said Honolulu City Councilwoman Kymberly Pine. “I think it opens a great discussion as to how do we actually build housing that local people can afford.”
“What we need is more of an infrastructure to be able to centralize a lot of the affordable housing funds and leverage them with state housing funds, and hopefully create more affordable housing, especially in the (transit-oriented development) areas,” said Honolulu City Councilman Joey Manahan.
The mayor says the city has already identified eight parcels that could be used for affordable housing in projects done jointly with the private sector.
City council hearings on the housing plan are expected to get underway next month.
Click here for more on the mayor’s affordable housing strategy and how it would be implemented.
The Draft Affordable Housing Strategy (Sept. 2015) is the framework for the city’s affordable housing programs and projects. Many actions are being implemented.
The mayor’s proposal adopts a new focus on several of these initiatives, including the affordable housing requirement, financial incentives, project finance, and use of city lands for affordable housing projects.