• Age: 37
• Residence: Lihu‘e
• Occupation: Business owner, teacher, councilmember
• Prior experience: Served two terms on the Kaua‘i County Council (2018-present), served on the county open space commission, the County General Plan Update Community Advisory Committee, the board of Malama Hule‘ia, the board of Kaiola Canoe Club, the board of the Hawai‘i Va‘a Association, and have volunteered as a paddling coach for the last 15 years
Q: The median price of a single-family home on Kaua‘i is over $1 million, and the county’s 2018 General Plan reported 44% of all households are cost-burdened. How will you address the affordable-housing crisis on Kaua‘i?
The housing crisis is the biggest issue that we face. I’ve spent most of my time over the last four years trying to address it from every angle, including eliminating fees, providing homeowners with free septic systems, reducing zoning barriers to development within our existing towns, and trying (and failing) to increase taxes on vacation rentals while providing the revenue towards affordable housing. All of my work centers around five core principles:
1) We need to build more homes in and around our existing towns. Every study on affordability includes increasing supply as a prerequisite for affordability. This is the first decade since statehood where home construction on Kaua‘i has fallen far below our population growth — and it’s this lack of homes that is the driver of our exploding costs;
2) We need to put more money towards building affordable housing;
3) We need to continually strive to make it easier for families to add on additional units (ARUs or ADUs) to their existing homes;
4) We need to build the infrastructure for more townhouses and condos in Lihu‘e. These are the only non-subsidized units that can be built within a truly affordable range;
5) We need to continue raising property taxes on vacant second homes and vacation rentals, which make up one in five homes on Kaua‘i. An effective tax rate for these homes can incentivize them to convert to resident housing and help fund the construction of affordable housing.
Q: The County Council sets real-property-tax rates as part of the county budget process. What changes, if any, would you make to the way that property is taxed on-island?
I believe that vacation rentals and vacant homes should pay more, with the revenue going mostly towards affordable housing. Here is the tax policy I have worked on:
I co-introduced and passed legislation to create two new property exemptions for homes above commercial spaces. These properties are currently assessed at the high, commercial-property-tax rate, which is a barrier to their development.
I co-introduced and passed legislation to provide access to existing beneficial property-tax rates and exemptions to families with no living owners on the title.
I co-introduced and failed to pass legislation that closes a loophole where owners of vacation rentals who live part time on the property or full time in another house on the property get taxed at the second-lowest tax rate, which is otherwise only reserved for small home businesses or long-term rentals on an owner-occupant’s property.
The legislation would have taxed them at the appropriate vacation-rental rate.
I’ve twice introduced and failed to pass a budget amendment to raise the vacation-rental property tax rate to equal the resort rate, with nearly all of the revenue going towards affordable housing.
I’ve co-introduced a bill that could give council the authority to charge high-value vacant homes and vacation rentals at higher rates. It is currently in process.
I’ve co-introduced a bill to change the agricultural-dedication program so that it encourages real farming, discourages land banking and fraud, and is less punitive than the current system.
Source: The Garden Island