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HOOSER: Kaua‘i — Counting votes for affordable housing

The lack of affordable housing is cited as the #1 issue by just about every candidate on the ballot in the primary election scheduled for Aug. 13.

We have more people living in the bushes, alongside the roadways, and under our bridges, than ever before.

The cost of housing is also higher than it’s ever been.

People are hurting. Bad kine.

Kaua‘i Councilmember Luke Evslin and Council Vice Chair Mason Chock have introduced Resolution No. 2022-22, proposing to amend the Kaua’i County Charter and earmark a minimum of two percent (2%) of county real-property-tax revenues to the Housing Development Fund for the purpose of affordable housing. Read the entire notice for Resolution No. 2022-22 at https://bit.ly/3PdDlNX.

When ultimately passed by voters, this will ensure that the creation of affordable housing for local residents will be a top priority for Kaua‘i County. Because the measure creates a dedicated annual funding source, the county will significantly increase its ability to compete for state and federal housing funds and to leverage the dedicated funding via long-term bonds.

The two councilmembers have also introduced Bill 2872 to amend the “Residential Investor” and “Vacation Rental” tax rate classifications to incentivize long-term rentals and to shift some of the financial burden toward those most capable of paying, and away from owner-occupied homes and long-term rentals. Bill 2872 does not increase property taxes, but only creates a broader tax structure that could support the funding of affordable housing and other vital services. Read the entire notice for Bill No. 2872 at https://bit.ly/3zdcufy.

These measures represent significant steps Kaua‘i County can and must take toward alleviating our existing affordable-housing crisis. Both the City &County of Honolulu and Maui County have created similar funding mechanisms dedicated to increasing their affordable-housing inventories.

The public hearing for both is today, Wednesday, July 20, in the council chambers of the Historic County Building on Rice Street in Lihu‘e at 8:30 a.m., and is perhaps the most-important public meeting of the year. My hope is that Kaua‘i residents will show up to testify in person AND that they will submit testimony in writing to counciltestimony@kauai.gov (late testimony is better than no testimony).

The actual vote will not occur until the Aug. 3 council meeting. However, it’s important to know where each councilmember stands on the issue, earlier rather than later.

Vote counting #101:

Obviously the sponsors, Councilmembers Luke and Chock, are in strong support.

Based on his past public statements and prior vote on the issue, it’s clear that Councilmember KipuKai Kuali‘i is also in strong support.

Similarly, it should be obvious to anyone observing the previous council meeting where this was discussed, that Council Chair Arryl Kaneshiro and Councilmember Bill DeCosta are strongly opposed. The chair is a genuine budget hawk, and prefers not to make a long-term budget commitment for affordable housing. DeCosta’s opposition seems based on a fear that people from the mainland will somehow cut in line ahead of true local residents.

Councilmember Bernard Carvalho and Councilmember Felicia Cowden both have spoken and voted in support, but the clarity of their positions, whether grounded in style or substance, sometimes appears muted.

It takes five votes to pass, and while the preliminary vote count on this looks to be five in support and two opposed, the ultimate vote of Aug. 3 is the one that matters.

All seven councilmembers need to hear from the community on this.

If passed by the council, Resolution 2022-22 will be placed on the November ballot for Kaua‘i voters to decide whether or not the creation of more affordable housing for local residents and a much-needed dedicated funding source should be a top priority or not.

The Aug. 13 primary election occurs just 10 days after the council votes on these two issues.

While I normally encourage people to vote early, in this case, I’m thinking about waiting to cast mine. #justsayin

•••

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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