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HOOSER: Bold, but flawed state emergency housing proclamation

Governor Green’s Emergency Housing Proclamation represents a bold opportunity for developers, for investors, bankers, contractors, and real estate investors moving here from the continent.

Local residents desperately in need of affordable housing are last in line.

The proclamation is bold, but flawed. While we want to trust the governor’s intent and believe those responsible for implementing that intent will do the right thing, it’s the actual language in the proclamation that matters.

There is no language in the proclamation stating that in return for receiving the benefits of certification, the housing being developed must be affordable.

There is language in the proclamation’s rules that states “The amount of affordable housing included in the project may affect the priority given to the project.”

The use of the word “may” rather than “shall” says it all. If the primary purpose is to increase affordable housing for local residents, the word “shall” would be there in all caps.

This isn’t just semantics. In the world of lawmaking the words may and shall have totally different meanings.

There’s no language to prevent the brand new homes from being sold or rented to those fresh off the plane.

There’s nothing to stop those brand new residents in five years, or after “any other unforeseeable occurrence” (see Rules section 2 page 2) to sell their new home for a profit, get back on the plane and go back from whence they came.

There are no requirements the homes be sold to “first time home-buyers”; no income requirements ensuring affordability; no price caps; and no prohibitions against “flipping” the property for a windfall profit.

There is a requirement that developers provide a project application, summary, over-view, check-list, describing the project and including any affordability components that may be included.

There’s a “working group,” which will “facilitate review” and “engage entities with key roles…” etc. The State Lead Housing Officer (LHO) will also chair the group, and can “determine that certain state or county projects may proceed without first being certified by the Build Beyond Barriers Working Group.”

The proclamation removes the existing authority of county council’s to review and approve 201-H affordable housing proposals and gives that power to a single appointed individual — the county planning director.

To put a point on it: The Emergency Housing Proclamation grants increased profit opportunities to developers, does not require housing affordability, and grants the authority to pick and choose which projects benefit — to a single individual appointed by the governor (with no requirement for Senate confirmation) and/or the county planning director.

It gets worse.

The proclamation suspends Chapter 92, the Hawaii Sunshine Law, which means the public will not know when the Build Beyond Barriers Working Group meets, nor what is on their agenda.

We’ve been told the intent is to keep the public informed and allow opportunities for meaningful participation, however suspension of the Sunshine Law means it’s all discretionary.

Sometimes they’ll let us know and let us talk, and other times if they’re in a hurry or just don’t want to deal with the public, they will not.

Other laws being suspended impact environmental protection, the procurement code, collective bargaining, the Land Use Commission, historic preservation, and many others.

I’m thinking the governor got some bad advice on this one.

My hope is he takes this back to the drawing board, consults with a broader range of stakeholders and rewrites it from top to bottom in the sunshine, putting forth true affordable housing as the only priority, and not throwing the environment and other important public values under the bus to get there.

Read the Emergency Housing Proclamation. Come to your own conclusions – then contact the Governor


Gary Hooser served eight years in the state Senate, where he was majority leader. He also served for eight years on the Kaua‘i County Counci. He presently writes on Hawaii Policy and Politics at
Source: The Garden Island

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