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Affordable-housing initiative back on the table

There is good news, bad news and more good news.

The good news is that Kaua‘i County Councilmember Luke Evslin and Council Vice Chair Mason Chock are giving it another go. Undeterred by being shut down in a previous 4-3 council vote, they have re-configured and resubmitted a two-part proposal to generate much-needed dedicated funding for affordable housing.

This is actually how it’s supposed to work. They listened to the concerns of their colleagues, adapted the proposal to alleviate those concerns, and are putting it once more on the table — hopefully, this time, achieving unanimous support from all seven councilmembers.

The proposal is in two parts, with each part standing on its own — yet related in concept and implementation.

There is Resolution No. 2022-22, and Bill No. 2872.

Resolution 2022-22 proposes a charter amendment requiring a minimum of 2% of real-property-tax revenues be dedicated for affordable housing. If the resolution is passed by the council a question will be placed on the ballot, stating, “Shall two percent (2%) of real-property-tax revenues be earmarked for the purpose of affordable housing?”

The decision will then be left up to voters on Nov. 8.

Our friends and neighbors are getting priced out of their rentals with literally nowhere to go. Our homeless shelters are all full and every affordable public-housing project has a waiting list.

The dedicated funding source being proposed will allow the county to invest in much-needed infrastructure improvements (sewer and water). At the moment, if an affordable-housing developer seeks to partner with the county on a project, the answer is “we need to wait and see if we can find the funds.” With a dedicated fund, the County Housing Agency can proactively seek out partnerships and opportunities.

Voters in Maui County have approved a 3% fund similarly dedicated toward affordable housing. Voters in Honolulu will be considering a proposal in November to increase their existing fund from 0.5% to 1%.

Why wouldn’t the Kauai County Council approve letting Kaua‘i voters choose to have this same option at 2%?

Bill 2872 is related but independent. When/if the charter amendment passes, Bill 2872 can be used as a funding mechanism to generate the 2% that is needed for affordable housing. If for some reason the charter amendment does not pass, Bill 2872 can still be used as a funding mechanism to generate funds for affordable housing and/or other purposes.

It’s important to note that Bill 2872 does not increase taxes. It simply creates a “three-tiered” system to allow the council, should they choose to do so in the future, to adjust the tax rate of properties that are not owner-occupied and/or not rented long-term.

Basic translation: Bill 2872 if passed would allow the county to charge vacant investor-owned homes valued at $3 million to $20 million or more, a higher rate than a home with a similar use valued at $1 million or less.

The actual proposed tiers:

w Tier 1: Up to $1 million dollars;

w Tier 2: In excess of $1 million dollars up to $3 million;

w Tier 3: In excess of $3 million.

Makes perfect sense. Bill 2872 does not increase taxes, but only increases the options and flexibility available to the county when evaluating future tax decisions.

But yes, there is some bad news.

The bad news is that both of these measures are scheduled for 8:30 this morning, June 15, and so if you are/were going to submit testimony to counciltestimony@kauai.gov, you best hurry up!

The other good news is you can and should, email ALL councilmembers even after this deadline has passed, as there will be other hearings and other votes. Please share your thoughts and encourage their support of both Resolution 2022-22 and Bill 2872, via email at councilmembers@kauai.gov.

Of course, if you are someone who owns a second or third home that you leave vacant or rent short-term to tourists on vacation, perhaps you might feel differently. You, of course, are also welcome to share your thoughts with the council as well.

This is what democracy looks like.

To view the council meeting or meeting archives, visit kauai.gov/webcastmeetings.

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Gary Hooser is the former vice-chair of the Democratic Party of Hawai‘i, and served eight years in the state Senate, where he was majority leader. He also served for eight years on the Kaua‘i County Council, and was the former director of the state Office of Environmental Quality Control. He serves in a volunteer capacity as board president of the Hawai‘i Alliance for Progressive Action and is executive director of the Pono Hawai‘i Initiative.
Source: The Garden Island

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