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:

Senator Chun Oakland Visits Armenia to Strengthen Relations

Senator Chun Oakland at the U.S. Embassy in Armenia with Ambassador Heffern, a PFP Fellow, and representatives from the American Councils for International Education

Senator Suzanne Chun Oakland is in Armenia this week as a part of the Professional Fellows Program (PFP), a cultural exchange program sponsored by the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and administered by the American Councils for International Education.

Last interim, Senator Chun Oakland hosted Arshak Gasparyan, an Armenian PFP fellow who studied Hawaii’s public policy to develop ideas to reform the juvenile justice system in his home country. This interim, she had the opportunity to travel to Armenia to continue in the sharing of knowledge from other public sector leaders.

At the U.S. Embassy in Yervan, Armenia, Senator Chun Oakland met with Arshak Gasparyan, representatives from the American Office of the American Councils for International Education and U.S. Ambassador to Armenia, John A. Heffern.

The PFP promotes mutual understanding between nations by strengthening the understanding of the U.S. legislative process and building a network of professional leaders interested in public policy around the world.

For more information about the Professional Fellows Program, please visit:

Senate’s Capitol Idol Raises Over $1,700 for the Hawaii Foodbank

The Capitol Idol II: The Return of Capitol Idol, a government talent show, raised over $1,700 for the Hawaii Foodbank. In 2012, the event raised $1,400.

Members of the executive branch and legislature didn’t hold anything back to win the coveted individual and team perpetual trophies. However, Blake Oshiro, Deputy Chief of Staff to Governor Neil Abercrombie, and his backup dancers outshone everyone with “Last Dance.”

Sen. Mike Gabbard organized the fundraiser and comedian Champ Kaneshiro volunteered as emcee.

“We all had a lot of fun for a good cause as we approach a hectic time during the legislative session,” said Gabbard. “We surpassed what we brought in last year and it’s all thanks to our guests and the performers.”

Performers included:

Team Executive Branch: Linda Rosen, Director of the Dept. of Health; Keali‘i Lopez, Director of the Dept. of Commerce and Consumer Affairs; Maria Zielinksi, Deputy Director of the Dept. of Accounting and General Services; Audrey Hidano, Deputy Director of the Department of Transportation; Keone Kali, Chief Information Officer; Joshua Wisch, Deputy Director of the Dept. of Taxation; Jesse Souki, Deputy Director of the Dept. of Land and Natural Resources; and Blake Oshiro, Deputy Chief of Staff

Team House: Reps. Lauren Cheap Matsumoto and Ken Ito

Team Senate: Sen. Russell Ruderman, backed by Sens. Rosalyn Baker, Will Espero, Mike Gabbard, Michelle Kidani and Suzanne Chun-Oakland;  Sen. Mike Gabbard; Sen. Malama Solomon with back-up singers Sen. Brickwood Galuteria and senate staff; and Da Kolohe Bruddahs, consisting of Sens. Mike Gabbard, Brickwood Galuteria and Russell Ruderman.


Hawaii State Senators Go Red For Women

Hawaii State senators wore red today in support of National Wear Red Day, a movement to raise awareness for the battle against heart disease in women.

Heart disease is the number one killer of women and is more prevalent in women than men. Now in its 10th year, the American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women campaign has saved lives by raising awareness of this serious issue.

From Left: Hawaii State Senators Kahele, Nishihara, Tokuda, Thielen, Solomon, Kim, Baker, Keith-Agaran, Shimabukuro, Chun Oakland

Senator Rosalyn Baker made the following announcement today on the Senate floor today.

“I just wanted to call to everyone’s attention: Some of us have red on for a reason. This is Go Red for Women Day, an acknowledgement that heart disease is one of the number one causes of deaths of women, and heart attacks manifest themselves very differently in women than they do in men. So, I would encourage all of the women here to know what the warning signs are and to watch out for your diet, and for all of our male colleagues who have women in their lives in whatever forms – sisters, daughters, moms, spouses – that you encourage them to know the warning signs and take care of their diet. Your health is a great concern to all of us, and happy Go Red for Women Day, and aloha.”

Senate Committees Hold a Hearing for a Bill Supporting Kupuna

The Hawaii Senate Committees on Human Services, Health, and Commerce and Consumer Protection held a hearing on January 30, 2014 on Senate Bill 2228, a bill that would support the elderly in our communities. The measure would address the need for new executive-level positions and provide funding for programs that maintain the health of our kupuna. Various state and county agencies, advocacy groups and individual citizens testified in support.

Proposed by the Kupuna Caucus, the bill complements the priorities of the Joint Majority Package as well as the goals in the Governor’s State of the State Address. As our aging population grows, we must continue to support the health and well-being of our elderly.

The committees recommended that the bill be passed with amendments addressing some of the concerns of those who testified. The bill awaits a committee report, after which another hearing will be held on the revised bill.

Senator Suzanne Chun Oakland, chairwoman of Senate Human Services Committee, reviewing written testimony for SB 2228 on January 30, 2014.

20th Annual Children and Youth Summit to be Held at the State Capitol

Honolulu- The 20th annual Children and Youth Summit will be held on Friday, October 11, 2013, in the Hawaii State Capitol Auditorium at 8:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Led by the Hawaii State Legislature’s Keiki Caucus, the summit is geared toward assisting the Legislature in identifying key children (0-12 years old) and youth (12-21 years old) issues to be addressed in the 2014 Legislative session.  Over 200 students of different ages and adults from across the State will be attending this year’s event.

The summit provides an excellent platform for our children and youth to learn about and become active in the legislative process,” said Senator Suzanne Chun Oakland, who co-chairs the Children and Youth Summit. “The younger generation plays a vital role in molding the future of our community and their voices deserve to be heard.”

It is heartening to see the suggestions made by children and youth turned into laws over the years,” said Representative John Mizuno, Co-Convener of the Keiki Caucus.

The event is free of charge. In addition to an array of breakout sessions, community leaders, business professionals and youth will provide a rich and diverse panel discussion on topics such as financial literacy, sustainability, early learning, wellness and healthy life styles.

Safe Places for Youth Mini Conferences Held at State Capitol

(Children and youth advocates gather at the State Capitol for the Safe Places for Youth Mini Conference.)

Honolulu- One hundred and fifty children and youth advocates gathered at the State Capitol today to attend a Safe Places for Youth Mini Conference. The conference provided an opportunity for members of the community to discuss the concept of the State’s “Safe Places for Youth” initiative and receive community outreach and training.

Children, youth, and community advocates identified the provision of “Safe Places for Youth” as a top priority during the 2012 Children and Youth Submit.  As a result, Hawaii is embarking on an initiative designed to provide a network of safe places statewide where children and youth can seek help in a timely and supportive manner.

Today’s conference provided a great opportunity for members of our community to continue to discuss and build on our efforts to develop a network of places where youth can access safety and services,” said Senator Suzanne Chun Oakland, Co-Convener of the Keiki Caucus. “Protecting our youth from vulnerable situations, whether at home, school, or on the streets, is a top priority. Safe Places would give our youth a secure location to turn to when they need it most.”

Senate Bill (SB) 391 and House Bill (HB) 395, relating to youth, were two measures introduced during the 2013 Legislative Session to help establish safe places for youth.

SB 391 requires the office of youth services to coordinate a two-year safe places for youth pilot program to establish a network of safe places where youth can access safety and services. It also establishes the position of safe places for youth program coordinator.

HB 395 requires the Office of Youth Services to coordinate a Safe Places for Youth Pilot Program to coordinate a network that youth may access for safety and where they may obtain advice, guidance, programs, and services. Additionally, the measure provides that in awarding custody and visitation of a minor child, the court shall consider the preference that custody be awarded to both parents to ensure maximum continuing physical, emotional, and meaningful contact with both parents.

Although neither measure made it through conference, both can still be acted on in the 2014 Legislative Session.

This is an exciting community effort,” said Chun Oakland. “This is a good plan and a valuable program. We will continue to work hard to pass supportive legislation this upcoming session.”

Today’s event was hosted by the Hawaii State Legislature’s Keiki Caucus, Office of Youth Services, Hawaii State Student Council, and Hawaii Youth Services Network.

Kupuna Caucus Receives Honor

The Hawaii State Legislature’s Kupuna Caucus was honored this morning for its years of outstanding service on behalf of Hawaii’s senior citizens and retirees. Senator Suzanne Chun Oakland was joined by her Co-Convener Representative Gregg Takayama in accepting the 2013 Distinguished Service Award at the Hawaii Alliance for Retired Americans and Kokua Council’s Seventh Annual Legislative Review. Representatives Marcus Oshiro, Bertrand Kobayashi and Cynthia Thielen along with members of the Caucus were also present.

This year the Hawaii State Legislature passed several priority measures from the Kupuna Caucus’ legislative package, including:  Senate Bill (SB) 102 (relating to the elderly), SB 106 (relating to aging), House Bill (HB) 120 (relating to health) and HB 200 (relating to the State Budget). These measures are currently being reviewed by the Governor.

SB 102, relating to the elderly: requires financial institutions to report instances of suspected financial abuse of an elder directly to the appropriate county police department and the Department of Human Services.

SB 106, relating to aging: establishes and funds a position for an Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementia Services Coordinator. Appropriates funds for programs and services that support the State’s elderly population, including Kupuna Care and Health Aging Partnership. Establishes the Task Force on Mobility Management.

HB 120, relating to health: requires the Department of Health to post on its website reports of all inspections at state-licensed care facilities occurring on or after January 1, 2015. It also establishes a Working Group on Licensed Care Facilities.

HB 200, relating to the State Budget: appropriates positions and funds for the operating and capital improvements program budget of the Executive Branch for fiscal years 2013-2014 and 2014-2015. Effective July 1, 2013.

Funds for Kupuna Care, Aging Disability and Resource Center, Long Term Care Insurance Feasibility and Actuarial Analysis, the operations of the Senior Centers, Medicaid, Adult Protective Services and other elder services are included in this bill.

During the 2013 legislative session the Legislature also worked to fund several programs that help to address the care, health and continued education and advancement of Hawaii’s Kupuna. Below includes a list of appropriation highlights:

  • $4,200,000       for Kupuna Care for Fiscal Years 2014 and 2015 (HB200, CD1)
  • $3,600,000       for Kupuna Care for Fiscal Year 2014 (SB106, CD1)
  • $300,000          for the Healthy Aging Partnership for Fiscal Year 2014  (SB106, CD1)
  • $70,000            for an Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementia Services Coordinator for Fiscal Year 2014 (SB106, CD1)
  • $175,000           for Catholic Charities Hawaii for the Lanakila Multi-Purpose Senior Center for Fiscal Year 2014 (HB200, CD1)
  • $50,000           for Moiliili Community Center for the Moiliili Senior Center for Fiscal Year 2014 (HB200, CD1)
  • $60,000          for the Waikiki Community Center for Fiscal Year 2014 (HB200, CD1)
  • $8,133,402     for operating costs for the Executive Office on Aging for Fiscal Years 2014 and 2015 (HB200, CD1)
  • $380,000       for a Long-Term Care insurance feasibility and actuarial analysis for Fiscal Year 2014 (HB200, CD1)


The Kupuna Caucus was first convened in 2006 by Senator Chun Oakland and Representative Dennis Arakaki. The idea came out of the innovative 2005 Silver Legislature, attended by 150 seniors, who played the roles of legislators, lobbyists or observers. 20 bills were passed and delivered to the leadership of the House and Senate. All have since become law.

Lawmakers to Discuss Bus Routes and Urban CIP Updates at Town Hall Meeting

Honolulu- Senators Suzanne Chun Oakland and Brickwood Galuteria, along with Representatives Karl Rhoads and Scott Saiki and Councilmember Carol Fukunaga, will sponsor a community meeting on Tuesday, March 12, 2013 from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the State Capitol Auditorium. Lawmakers have invited guest speakers from the State Department of Transportation, State Department of Accounting and General Services, State Department of Hawaii Housing Finance Development Corporation, State Department of Hawaii Community Development Authority, and City and County Department Transportation Services.

I highly encourage everyone to attend this meeting and learn about the upcoming projects that will impact them,” said Senator Suzanne Chun Oakland, who represents Senate District 13, encompassing Liliha, Palama, Iwilei, Kalihi, Nu‘uanu, Pacific Heights, Pauoa, Lower Tantalus and Downtown. “This meeting provides the public with the chance to hear from and talk story with their government officials.”

During the meeting, we will be discussing key issues, including upcoming improvements for Downtown, Chinatown, and Kaka’ako/Iwilei, as well as the City’s plans to restore bus routes and update water and sewer billings,” said Senator Brickwood Galuteria, who represents Senate District 12, encompassing Waikiki, Ala Moana, Kaka‘ako, McCully, Mo‘ili‘ili. “I look forward to seeing everyone at Tuesday’s town meeting.”

The general public will have the chance to ask questions about legislative issues and the topics being discussed.

Lawmakers to Discuss Transportation, Affordable Housing and Homeless Solutions at Town Hall Meeting

Honolulu- Senator Suzanne Chun Oakland, along with Representative Takashi Ohno and Councilmember Carol Fukunaga, will hold a community meeting on Wednesday, February 27, 2013 from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Lanakila Elementary School Cafeteria. The lawmakers have invited guest speakers from the City & County of Honolulu’s Department of Transportation Services, State Department of Transportation, State Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corporation, State Department of Education, Hawaii Public Housing Authority and State Department of Business and Economic Develop and Tourism.

I encourage everyone to attend this meeting to learn about the various issues impacting our community ,” said Senator Suzanne Chun Oakland, who represents Senate District 13, encompassing Liliha, Palama, Iwilei, Kalihi, Nu‘uanu, Pacific Heights, Pauoa, Lower Tantalus and Downtown. “This event will also provide residents with the opportunity to meet their lawmakers and engage in discussion with government officials.”

The speakers will be updating the community on:

  • Kuakini Street Extension Project
  • Iwilei Senior Housing Development
  • Public Housing Projects
  • Highway Projects
  • Potential Homeless Solutions

The general public will have the chance to ask questions about legislative issues and the topics being discussed.

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