On the County Council agenda this Wednesday is one of the most important elements of an affordable-housing solution.
Resolution 2022-22, introduced by Councilmembers Evslin and Chock, would put on the general election ballot a proposal to earmark 2% of real-property taxes for the Housing Development Fund to fund affordable-housing projects.
If the council wants to make a substantial dent in the housing crisis on Kaua‘i, it must pass the resolution giving voters the chance to vote for affordable-housing funding.
The county cannot solve its housing problem without capital. The proposed earmark will provide such capital. Conservatively, it costs an average of $500,000 to build one housing unit on Kaua‘i. The General Plan says we need 9,000 units by 2035. If we just aim for 1,000 units initially, assuming an 80% subsidy, it means we will need $400 million in capital.
This is daunting. However, the charter earmark, which will produce about $3.7 million a year, can leverage the money via a bond float. We can borrow against a reliable allocation in ways not possible when funding is subject to the whims of year-to-year budgeting. Plus, if the Housing Agency uses the money strategically, it can match those monies with other funds and developer contributions.
The best way to make affordable housing a long-term priority is to earmark the monies in the charter. This would be akin to a money-strapped family trying to save for a home or college education which they have deemed to be their highest priority. Because the saving goal is so important, money is put aside before any other expenditure is made. This is done with a discipline that knows that if you wait till all the regular payments are made, you will never put aside enough to achieve your most-important goal.
The earmarked monies will not come from local homeowners. It will be covered by amounts generated from the vacation rental or investment classes of real property. It is just and logical that property taxes generated from vacation rentals and second homes help to solve the affordable-housing crisis. Demand from outside investors is causing real-property price inflation, hurting our local families and our local businesses (which need workers who need housing).
The unrestricted monies provided by the earmark will enable the county to provide housing for more families in more income brackets. Because housing capital is presently limited, the county is overly dependent on federal. low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) funds. These are restricted to housing for families at 60% of area median income (AMI). Unrestricted capital from real-property taxes will enable the county to build for families with incomes of 80%, 100% and 120% AMI, implementing existing county policy.
A robust Housing Development Fund would give the County Housing Agency the flexibility and agility to buy land as the opportunity arises. Kalepa Village and Rice Camp housing projects would not exist today except for such capital.
The annual budget process is not a viable alternative to the earmark. As a former councilmember, I was part of 22 budget sessions. I tried to get more money for housing, but over the years neither the council nor the mayor have come close to establishing the amount needed to address the housing problem. A budget resolution was recently suggested as a solution, but even if one was drafted and passed, it could be repealed or reduced at any time, as was the open space ordinance several years ago.
To solve the affordable housing crisis, the council and mayor need to provide substantial unrestricted housing development capital. Over the years that affordable housing has been a critical problem, the present county budget process has not produced the amount of capital needed. Nor will it provide the consistency of funding required. The best solution is the proposed charter earmark.
Unless Resolution 2022-22 is passed, voters will not have the chance to vote for a critically needed affordable-housing solution. A vote against Resolution 2022-22 in my opinion will be a vote against the voters and against affordable housing.
Email the council today at email@example.com and ask them to VOTE FOR Resolution 2022-22, which will allow voters to decide whether to fund affordable housing.
JoAnn A. Yukimura is a former mayor of Kaua‘i County and served as Housing and Transportation Committee Chair on the County Council for many years. She has supported, negotiated or helped to develop over 1,500 affordable-housing units on Kaua‘i over the last 40 years.
Source: The Garden Island