Lawmakers Highlight Need for More Affordable Housing and Statewide Coordination at Informational Briefing with State and City Agencies

Joint Senate and House informational briefing on affordable housing in Hawaii

With the shortage of affordable housing options for the moderate income workforce, Hawaii lawmakers today held a joint Senate and House informational briefing to learn more about affordable housing needs in Hawaii.

Senators and representatives heard from various government agencies to learn about the status of existing and planned affordable housing projects, and their plans to address the growing need for affordable housing as the state’s population and housing demands increase.

“We convened this informational briefing because there’s an urgent need for affordable housing,” said Sen. Suzanne Chun Oakland, chair of the Senate Committee on Human Services. “And it’s necessary that we get everyone involved at each level and at the same table to discuss where we are at, what we are doing and what needs to be done to meet the housing needs of Hawaii’s residents.”

In 2011, the Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corporation (HHFDC) released the Hawaii Housing Planning Study which revealed 50,000 new units needed to be built between 2012 and 2016 to meet demands. Of that number, based on Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) income guidelines, about 19,000 are needed for household incomes of 80 percent of area median income (AMI) and below. (This is $43,250 for 1-person household, and $61,750 for 4-person household). HHFDC has procured a new updated study that will be released later this year.

Senator Chun Oakland and Representative Hashem receive updates on existing and planned affordable housing projects from government agency officials

“Hawaii’s workforce deserves to live in housing they can afford,” said Rep. Mark Hashem, chair of the House Committee on Housing. “Nearly half of Hawaii’s homeless population are working persons who are unable to afford steady permanent housing. In addition to addressing the housing shortage for those at AMI, we also need to ensure there is enough help for hard-working low-income individuals to obtain housing units.”

During the briefing, lawmakers questioned the Hawaii Community Development Authority (HCDA) about reserved housing requirements for workforce housing in the Kakaako district.

“Our constituents remain concerned that developers are reserving affordable housing units at the 140% of AMI mark, which is not reasonable for many of Hawaii’s working population,” said Chun Oakland. “HCDA needs to be doing more to address the housing needs of the people at 100% of AMI and below.”

Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz, chair of the Senate Committee on Economic Development, Government Operations and Housing, questioned the siloed approach to planning for affordable housing projects for transit oriented development (TOD).

Senator Dela Cruz at a July 23, 2014 informational briefing on affordable housing

“It seems like all agencies have their own plan and no one is working together,” said Dela Cruz. “Instead of this siloed approach to workforce housing in relation to TOD, there must be an overall statewide approach. There’s going to be housing located around the various TOD stations. Why are we not working together?”

This past session, the legislature created a TOD Working Group to bring together all major players to plan for the future in a comprehensive and succinct way.

Senator Espero at a July 23, 2014 informational briefing on affordable housing

Sen. Will Espero, chair of the Senate Committee on Public Safety, Intergovernmental and Military Affairs, expounded on the effect veterans returning home will have on Hawaii’s housing needs in the future.

“Our veterans fought for our nation’s principles of freedom and liberty and deserve to raise their families in housing they can afford,” said Senator Will Espero, chair of the Senate Committee on Public Safety, Intergovernmental and Military Affairs. “As our veterans return home, we need to ensure they have access to services to ensure a smooth transition back to civilian life.”

Other issues related to affordable housing discussed included the growing number of people on the waitlist of public housing and Hawaiian homelands. In public housing, there is approximately 30,000 people waitlisted (using three people per family as the average). That is about 10,000 families on the waitlist. For Hawaiian homelands, 26,926 applicants are waitlisted and 43,080 applicants are pending.

During the 2014 Legislative Session, lawmakers approved measures to help with affordable housing. They include:

  • SB2542 (Act 163) – Restores the allocation of conveyance tax collections to the rental housing trust fund to 50% beginning July 1, 2014. It is estimated that this law will generate $33,100,000 for the Rental Housing Trust Fund, which is used to leverage funds for the building of affordable housing units.
  • HB2251 (Act 162) – Increases the Hula Mae Multifamily Revenue Bond authorization limit from $750 million to $1 billion. The program will help first-time buyers afford a 30-year mortgage at a competitive rate and provides down payment assistance. There’s a high demand for this type of financing and in 2013 the total dollar value of requests exceeded the amount available. Increasing this amount will allow for the continuation of development and preservation of affordable housing for lower income households.

The following government agencies who provided testimony include Hawaii Community Development Authority (HCDA), Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corporation (HHFDC), Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL), Hawaii Public Housing Authority (HPHA), Department of Defense, City and County of Honolulu’s Office of Housing.

All of the briefing material posted here: http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/session2014/testimony/INFO_TESTIMONY_HMS-EGH-PSM-HSG_07-23-14.pdf

Statement from Senator J. Kalani English on the Release of $500,000 for New Lanai Community Health Center

Senator J. Kalani English today released the following statement on the release of $500,000 in capital improvement grant funds for a new Lana’i Community Health Center (LCHC) facility. Sen. English represents District 7, which includes Hana, East and Upcountry Maui, Moloka‘i, Lana‘i, and Kaho‘olawe.

Rendering of the new Lanai Community Health Center

Floor plan of the of the new Lanai Community Health Center

“My colleagues and I worked hard to secure the $500,000 in the state budget to help fund the LCHC project.

“The people of Lana’i deserve a new center in a prime location to provide better access for those who need these types of necessary healthcare and dental services. With its larger design in a central location, more people in this remote area will receive care from top-notch professionals.

“The healthcare providers at LCHC have over the years showed their commitment to the people of Lana‘i. In fact, several of the Center’s doctors were named in Honolulu Magazine’s Best Doctors in Hawaii list. I also applaud the Center’s officials and staff on the work they have done to see this new facility come to fruition.”

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Tranquility Base Day in Hawaii

This Sunday (July 20) will mark the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing in 1969, when Astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans in history to walk on another world. This seminal event helped launch humankind’s first steps beyond Earth, and the State of Hawaii played an instrumental role in both training the Apollo astronauts for their historic mission (at multiple lava fields on the Big Island of Hawaii) and in providing a communications link with the Apollo spacecraft (through the Koke’e Tracking Station on Kauai) during its sojourn to the lunar surface.

In recognition of this occasion and our State’s support for and continued involvement with space exploration, the Hawaii State Legislature unanimously passed SCR 82 during the 2014 Session, which established July 20, 2014 as “Tranquility Base Day” in Hawaii. Apollo astronaut Buzz Aldrin is also commemorating this historic occasion through a video presentation in which he discusses Hawaii’s role in the Apollo Program, as well as the substantial scientific, educational, social, and commercial opportunities and benefits the aerospace industry in general (and space exploration in particular) can bring to our Aloha State.

“Hawaii has positioned itself to become an active participant in the aerospace industry,” said Sen. Will Espero, chair of the Committee on Public Safety, Intergovernmental and Military Affairs. “Space tourism, regional unmanned aerial systems test site, small satellite launches, a research park on the Big Island based on space exploration, robotics, and laser telecommunications are areas that Hawaii can be a leader in the aerospace world.”

“We are on the verge of expanding and establishing a niche market around science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” he added. “This industry will be good for Hawaii residents, our nation, and the world.”

For more information, please contact the office of Senator Will Espero at 808-586-6360 or the Hawaii Office of Aerospace Development at 808-383-9811.

 

State Hospital Administrators Subpoenaed to Testify Before Senate Investigative Committee

The Hawaii State Senate continues its investigation into allegations of misconduct at the State Hospital on Wednesday, July 16.

The Special Investigative Committee on the State Hospital was formed during the 2014 legislative session to conduct an investigation of the workplace safety of psychiatric workers and allegations of administrative improprieties and failure to conform to established employment policies and practices at the Hawaii State Hospital. The hearings began in March to receive testimony from subpoenaed individuals and has been ongoing as senators take a wide-ranging and in-depth look at the State Hospital.

“There are a growing number of concerns at the State Hospital,” said Senator Clayton Hee, co-chair of the Senate Special Investigative Committee on the State Hospital. “As we learn more about the inner workings at the State Hospital, it’s become clear that there are many issues that need addressing. We need to hold workers accountable for improper actions, but also equip them with the tools necessary to do their jobs.”

“The first step in solving a problem is to assess the current situation” said Senator Josh Green, co-chair of the Senate Special Investigative Committee on the State Hospital. “The hearings we hold attempts to gives us insight into what exactly is happening at the State Hospital so that we can begin to address and solve those issues with open and transparent governance.”

The next hearing will be held on Wednesday, July 16 at 11:00am in Room 16 of the Hawaii State Capitol to receive testimony from the following individuals for which subpoenas were issued:

  • Mark Fridovich, Adult Mental Health Division Administrator
  • William Elliott, Acting Hawaii State Hospital Administrator
  • Linda Rosen, Director of the Department of Health

Statement from Senator Espero

 

On the Governor’s Veto of SB2589, Relating to the Transfer of Harbor Police to the Department of Public Safety


Senator Will Espero, chair of the Committee on Public Safety, Intergovernmental, and Military Affairs, issued the following statement regarding Governor Neil Abercrombie’s veto of SB2589, relating to the transfer of harbor police from the Department of Transportation (DOT) to the Department of Public Safety (DPS). Espero introduced the measure.

 

“I am disappointed the governor chose to veto SB2589, which transfers harbor police to the Department of Public Safety. It appears he listened to government bureaucrats more interested in protecting the status quo rather than making positive changes to the state’s law enforcement authority.

“The bill had support from both the Department of Transportation and the Department of Public Safety during the 2014 legislative session. There was no opposition. It appears that after Director Glenn Okimoto left the top post, underlings in DOT convinced the interim director to request a veto of the bill.

“The bill was part of a long-term plan to eventually consolidate all state law enforcement duties under one state agency. Currently, DLNR also has law enforcement officers as well.

“I believe the governor was given bad advice by his staff on this measure. I would like to see the issue revisited next session and once again passed out so that we can bring positive change to our law enforcement authority.”

 

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Statement from Senator J. Kalani Enlgish on the Launch of the Aloha+ Challenge

Sen. J. Kalani English today issued the following statement on the launch of the “Aloha+ Challenge: A Culture of Sustainability — He Nohona ‘Ae‘oia” with a dedication signing by the governor, four county mayors and leaders from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. Senator English, chair of the Senate Committee on Transportation and International Affairs, was the primary introducer of SCR 69, a resolution supporting the Aloha+ Challenge.

“The Aloha+ Challenge will help keep us on the path to a sustainable future through coordinated efforts and strategic investments. It’s a commitment by government and our partners to hit our goal marks for clean energy, local food production, natural resource management, waste reduction, smart sustainable communities and green jobs and education.”

The Aloha+ Challenge sets six targets to be reached by 2030. They include:

  1. Clean Energy:  70 percent clean energy, including 40 percent from renewables and 30 percent from efficiency;
  2. Local Food:  At least double the local food production with a goal of 20-30 percent of food consumed being grown locally;
  3. Natural Resource Management:  Reverse the trend of natural resource loss mauka to makai by increasing watershed protection, community-based marine management, invasive species prevention and control, and restoration of native species;
  4. Waste Reduction:  Reduce the solid waste stream prior to disposal by 50 percent, through source reduction, recycling, and bioconversion;
  5. Smart Sustainable Communities:  Increase livability and resilience in the built environment through planning and implementation at the state and county levels;
  6. Green Workforce:  Increase local green jobs and education to implement these targets; and

For more information on SCR 69, visit: http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/session2014/bills/SCR69_SD1_.htm

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Statement from Senator J. Kalani English on the Signing into Law of SB274, Establishing a Resilience and Sustainability Partnership

Senator  J. Kalani English today released the following statement on the signing into law of SB2742, a bill that establishes the Pacific-Asia Institute for Resilience and Sustainability. Chair of the Senate Committee on Transportation and International Affairs, Senator English is the primary introducer of the measure and worked with stakeholders and colleagues throughout session to see the bill pass out of the legislature.

The measure creates a revolutionary and innovative public-private partnership to better approach community resilience and improve how the world addresses disruptive changes through necessary collaboration on a global level. It would in essence create a significant and well-trained network of support for the issues facing the Pacific-Asia region. The Office of the Lieutenant Governor will act as the State’s liaison to assist the Institute in carrying out its duties, and the Institute will be eligible for grants and subsidies under chapter 42F.

“A lot of people put so much work into creating the Pacific-Asia Institute for Resilience and Sustainability and I am thrilled that the governor signed it into law today. Right now, here in Hawaii, we have concerns about rising seawater threatening our shoreline, and as lawmakers we are looking ahead at how we will face these challenges and adapt to changes. The foundation of the Institution is based on helping communities become resilient and sustainable through preventive measures: assess vulnerability, identify solutions and provide support.

“An example of the Institute’s work in practice is the collaboration of the State of Hawaii’s Department of Defense (DoD), the Pacific Disaster Center with Hawaiian Electric, U.S. Pacific Command, IBM and Mehta Tech Inc. to study the potential enhancement of the security, reliability and dependability of the electric grid on Oahu, and ways to apply analytics to better predict potential risks such as natural disaster,” he added. “The partners will look at how to improve the overall grid reliability and bridge the gap between efforts to integrate alternative energy solutions and efficiently manage consumption.

“We’ll see more of these types of efforts thanks to the establishment of the Institute.”

For more information on the law, visit: http://capitol.hawaii.gov/measure_indiv.aspx?billtype=SB&billnumber=2742&year=2014

 

 

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Town Hall Meeting Scheduled to Discuss Little Fire Ant Infestation of Residential Areas in Mililani Mauka

Senators Donovan Dela Cruz and Michelle Kidani have scheduled a town hall meeting for concerned Mililani residents to discuss how the community can work together with city and state agencies to stop the spread of Little Fire Ants (LFA).

The meeting will be held on Monday, July 14 from 7-9 p.m. at Mililani Mauka Elementary School Cafeteria. Agencies invited to the meeting are the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Land and Natural Resources, the Department of Health, and the Invasive Species Council.

The Dept. of Agriculture last week confirmed that at least eight homes on Auina Street in Mililani Mauka are positive for LFA and the infestation has spread to the gulch.

“We wanted to take swift action and bring our community together,” said Senator Kidani. “The best way for us to control the spread of the Little Fire Ants is to educate the public on how to detect and treat infestations.”

The LFA is considered the world’s most invasive species. It has been found on Hawaii Island since 1999 and in December 2013 was detected on hapuu logs (Hawaiian fern) on Maui and Oahu. More recently, six acres in Waimanalo has been treated after detection of LFA.

“We also want to give the community an opportunity to ask questions and share concerns,” added Senator Dela Cruz. “With this being residential areas, it’s a serious discovery, and surely triggers a lot of fear and questions in people. The meeting is intended to bring awareness and set a community effort in motion to help the state combat Little Fire Ants.”

The public should report concerns of LFA infestation at the toll-free PEST HOTLINE at 643-PEST (7378).

For questions about the town hall meeting, please call Senator Dela Cruz at 586-6090 or Senator Kidani at 586-7100.

Click the image to view a flyer on how to test for Little Fire Ants.

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Statement from Senator Will Espero on the Release of $2 million for Improvements to Oahu Veterans Center

Senator Will Espero, chair of the Committee on Public Safety, Intergovernmental and Military Affairs, issued the following statement today following the governor’s release of $2 million in capital improvement project funding for Oahu Veterans Center.

“My colleagues and I in the Legislature worked to include funding in the budget for Oahu Veterans Center because the center serves as a much-needed gathering place for veterans and the surrounding community.

“Our veterans served our nation with esteem and valor and as Independence Day nears, we remember to give thanks and to show our appreciation for those who served to defend our nation’s way of life. The Oahu Veterans Center goes a long way in improving the quality of life for our veterans and the community and I am pleased that the governor has released the funding.”

The funds will go towards the final construction phase of the center which includes a new meeting hall, improvements to the driveway and infrastructure for an air conditioning system and restroom facilities.

Oahu Veterans Center

The Oahu Veterans Center at Foster Village

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Completely Stopped Drivers Exempted from Electronic Device Ban

Other Amendments to the Law Go into Effect July 1, 2014


Changes to the cell phone ban passed by the Legislature in 2013, Act 74, which prohibits the use of mobile electronic devices while operating a vehicle, takes effect today.

The amendments to the law include exempting drivers who are completely stopped, changing the penalties for violations and making a violation a traffic infraction.

“After the law was passed in 2013, we at the Legislature received a lot of complaints about the vagueness of the law and the severity of requiring violators to go to court,” said Sen. J. Kalani English, a Maui senator and chair of the Committee on Transportation and International Affairs, who introduced the measure. “It was never our intention to require violators to go to court instead of mailing in a fine. We also wanted to be very clear about what a violation was. If someone is on their phone while pulled over and completely stopped with the engine turned off in a safe location out of traffic – that seems like a reasonable and safe use of an electronic device while in a vehicle.”

The fines for the new law have changed to a flat fee of $250 for first and multiple violations and $300 for violations in a school or construction zone.

“Driving while using your cell phone or any other electronic device is just plain dangerous and irresponsible,” added English. “Fines have proven to deter people from breaking the law, but more importantly, we want to keep the people of Hawaii safe. A person’s life is significantly more important than that Facebook post or text message.”

For more information on the law, visit: http://capitol.hawaii.gov/measure_indiv.aspx?billtype=SB&billnumber=2729&year=2014

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