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Governor to use state land for affordable housing

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Governor to use state land for affordable housing

Citing the need to address Hawai'i's homeless problem, Gov. Linda Lingle yesterday said her administration is planning to use hundreds of acres of state land for affordable housing projects.

Speaking before about 1,000 people at the Chamber of Commerce of Hawai'i annual luncheon, Lingle said the state has "an exploding need for affordable housing," and that nearly half of the more than 6,000 homeless in Hawai'i are on the Neighbor Islands.

Lingle said the state needs at least 17,000 more rental units over the next five years that will be affordable to people earning 80 percent of Hawai'i's yearly median income or less. That translates to up to $36,800 for an individual or $52,550 for a family of four on O'ahu.

"We as a state have let this problem go on for too long," she said. "If we don't address it head on and seriously and collectively, it will have a profound negative impact on all of us."

Lingle said her administration has identified two parcels of land on the west side of the Big Island

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More encouraging news!

Developers brainstorm with Lingle on affordable housing

Gov. Linda Lingle, who told the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii last week that she wanted to huddle with developers to consider solutions to the state's homeless problem, reveals she has now done so.

The governor's office said Tuesday that Lingle met Monday "with several private land developers" to brainstorm to create 17,000 affordable rental housing units in six years, and recommended that the state combine financing, permitting, constructing and managing of affordable rental projects under the aegis of a single entity using private money from the business community.

Such a plan could require legislative enabling at the outset but would dodge time-consuming political and bureaucratic processes thereafter, especially since no state funds would be required.

"We're doing this because there's a need and it's the right thing to do," said developer Stanford Carr. "If we don't address it now, and do it together, we will face serious social and economic consequences."

"For years service providers like us have worked to help the homeless, but we've never met with developers who build homes that these people need," said Carol Ignacio, with the Office of Social Ministry of Hilo. "I'm encouraged and hopeful."

Gov. Lingle will next host a meeting with county officials to enlist their aid in speeding up the process. Several of the most time-consuming steps in developing housing involve county governments.

Lingle administration officials, meanwhile, will continue to work on identifying specific parcels of land that can be used for affordable housing. Last Thursday the governor told the Chamber that two sites had been identified on the Kona side of the Big Island, five sites had been identified on Kauai, and discussions were well underway on Maui.

"Meeting participants said there is a need to focus on the urban core of Oahu and other islands, where jobs and services are most accessible," the governor's office said Tuesday. "The private sector participants committed to approach private land owners, including various trusts, about donating parcels or leasing land for nominal amounts."

There were about 20 people in the meeting, the governor's office said. Among them, representatives from the following public and private organizations:

* Schuler Homes Hawaii.

* Stanford Carr Development.

* Haseko Construction.

* Ko Olina Co.

* Castle & Cooke.

* Armstrong Properties.

* Bank of Hawaii.

* Honsadore Lumber Co.

* Housing and Community Development Corp. of Hawaii.

* Department of Hawaiian Home Lands.

* Department of Land and Natural Resources.

* Institute for Human Services.

* Kalihi Palama Health Center.

* Office of Social Ministry.

* Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii.

"The homeless problem facing our state has grown too large for any one organization or company to solve on its own," Lingle said Tuesday in a statement. "We have ignored this issue for too long."

SMS Research estimates that there are 6,000 homeless people in the state, of whom 3,300 are on Oahu, 1,100 in Maui County, 1,200 on the Big Island and another 300 on Kauai. There were only about 3,000 homeless in Hawaii as recently as 1999, SMS says. Fewer than 17 percent of people surveyed cited drug abuse as a factor in their homelessmess, while 41 percent cited eviction for inability to pay their rent.

"The lack of affordable rentals is a serious problem for many working families, so this is a critical issue for the business community," said the new Chamber chairwoman, Christine Camp Friedman.

When the problem is called "affordable housing" instead of "the homeless," is suddenly gets bigger. For every homeless person in Hawaii there are several who still have homes but work multiple jobs to meet the rent.

"We are bringing our resources together and developing a comprehensive, coordinated approach to addressing this critical issue," said HCDCH Executive Director Stephanie Aveiro. Her agency will hold a public forum on the issue at the State Capitol next month.


:D Work it!

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