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Gov.Lingle signs affordable-housing bills, promise

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Gov. Lingle signs affordable-housing bills, promises more

Gov. Linda Lingle yesterday said three new laws aimed at helping the homeless and low-income residents were a step in the right direction toward bringing more affordable housing to Hawai'i, but stressed that more needs to be done.

The governor promised to "continue to focus on what I believe is the most serious issue facing our state."

This is a step we needed to take but there's so much more that we need to do, she said during a bill signing outside a rental complex for seniors in Kaka'ako.

The measures include a bill that implements several strategies to bring affordable housing to a state with some of the highest median home prices in the nation. Last month the median resale price of a house was $735,000 on Maui and $593,000 on O'ahu.

The strategies include:

# Creating a Joint Legislative Affordable Housing and Homeless Task Force to conduct hearings and gather more information to develop future solutions to housing in Hawai'i. The task force will focus on identifying state lands for affordable housing and streamlining the permitting, land use and zoning barriers to constructing and rehabilitating affordable housing.

# Increasing the amount of conveyance taxes transferred into the Rental Housing Trust Fund and creating a special grant program funded through the trust fund for developers who build units for families earning less than $20,000 per year.

# Expanding the general excise tax exemption for build-out costs and rental income stream for projects that dedicate at least half of their units for families earning $50,000 per year.

# Expanding the types of developers that may qualify for trust fund money to include corporations, companies and partnerships.

# Allowing developers to obtain approval of a project within 45 days if the project primarily targets housing units for families earning less than $95,000 a year.

The bill also splits the Housing and Community Development Corporation of Hawai'i into two agencies effective July 1, 2006

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