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Thursday, May 18, 2023

Kaʻū News Briefs, Thursday, May 18, 2023

 Kaʻū High School graduation will be livestreamed Friday night beginning at 5 p.m. Tickets are
required to attend in person. Thursday was last day of school for seniors. Image from Kaʻū High School

HAWAI'I COUNTY'S HOUSING SHORTAGE HAS INCREASED. There are about 72,927 housing units and 206,215 people on this island, according to the latest U.S. census bureau estimates released this week. The data shows that 1,751 housing units were added in Hawai'i County between July of 2020 and July of

2022. However, according to state Chief Economist Eugene Tian, the availability of affordable housing declined; "the housing shortage worsened on the Big Island."
    For Neighbor Islands, Maui, Moloka'i and Lana'i which make up Maui County, added 1,335 housing units. Kaua'i County housing increased by 289. On O'ahu, housing units increased by 2,696.
    Tian said that despite an increase in housing units statewide, Hawai'i's affordable housing problem remains since many of the houses added are unaffordable to most people.
    From July 2020 to July 2022, Hawai'i County's population grew 2.8 percent. Kaua'i's grew .75 percent. Maui's population declined by 2.5 percent. O'ahu population declined .75 percent. The entire state's population declined by 1 percent to 1.44 million people.
    According to Tian, during the first quarter of this year, residential construction slowed down, with high interest and mortgage rates and higher prices for construction materials.

TO ADDRESS HAWAI'I COUNTY'S HOUSING SHORTAGE,  Hawai'i County opened up a portal May 1 for proposals to create housing, after securing $18 million in funding for the Affordable Housing Production Program. The County sent out a call for proposals with a June 30 deadline to apply. Applicants to be considered by Hawaiʻi County Office of Housing & Community Development and its director Susan Kunz are: eligible developers, non-profit and for-profit organizations, public agencies, and community land trusts.
Housing Administrator Susan Kunz
      The funding provides a minimum of $5 million per year in an attempt to catch up with the Hawaiʻi Housing Planning Study's estimate that Hawaiʻi County needs to add 10,796 affordable housing units by 2025 to meet the community's needs. For the funding,  eligible expenditures include:
    Acquisition of real property for the development of affordable housing;
    Planning, design, or construction of affordable rental or owner-occupied housing;
  Rehabilitation of housing to be utilized as affordable housing;
    Providing affordable housing for elderly, persons with special housing needs, and homeless residents lacking a permanent home;
     Investment in infrastructure in connection with the development of affordable housing projects; and
other activities that support, increase, and sustain affordable housing production in Hawai'i County.
    Proposals are submitted electronically through an online application at www.hawaiicounty.gov/ahp Proposals are due by 4:30 p.m. June 30.
      For more, visit www.hawaiicounty.gov/ahp or email ohcd.ahp@hawaiicounty.gov. Also see http://kaunewsbriefs.blogspot.com/2023_04_24_archive.html

THE EXTINCTION PREVENTION ACT was introduced Thursday by Kaʻū's U.S. Senator Mazie Hirono and by colleagues into the House of Representatives. Hirono is a member of the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee. A statement from her office says that the bicameral legislation would "provide much-needed funding for some of the country’s most imperiled yet vastly underfunded wildlife species, including Pacific Island plants.
    “In Hawai'i, native plants are crucial to the islands’ history, culture, and environment, which is why our communities prioritize the preservation of our unique biodiversity,” said Hirono. “I’m glad to join my colleagues in reintroducing this legislation to invest in the conservation of some of our nation’s most vulnerable species. It is important that we protect endangered species so they can continue serving important ecological roles for years to come.”

    The statement says that the Extinction Prevention Act "addresses the longstanding issue of insufficient funding which has plagued efforts to recover these at-risk species, in some cases, for decades." It authorizes $5 million annually for each species group to fund conservation projects related to: restoration, protection, and management of ecosystems;
research and monitoring of populations; development and implementation of management plans;
enforcement and implementation of applicable conservation laws; and community outreach and education.
    The statement says that "Habitat protection for these less charismatic species is chronically underfunded despite them being among the species most at risk of extinction. North American butterflies—one of the fastest declining groups of all endangered species—have not seen a single species improve among the 39 listed.
     "The situation is equally dire in Hawai'i and the Pacific Islands, where nearly 400 plant species are threatened or endangered, representing about 22 percent of all listed species. In Hawai'i, over 200 plant species have dwindled to fewer than 50 wild individuals.
    "Freshwater mussels are currently the most imperiled animal group in the country, with 70 percent of U.S. species at risk of extinction and 38 species already lost. Southwest desert fish are being threatened by drought and water scarcity, resulting in significant population and habitat reductions. Currently, 42 species are listed as endangered or threatened."
    Eligible applicants for funding include relevant states, territories, tribal governments, or any other entities with the expertise required for the conservation of the particular species group. The bill is endorsed by the Endangered Species Coalition; Center for Biological Diversity; and the Columbus Zoo & Aquarium Freshwater Mussel Conservation and Research Center The full text of the bill is available here. A fact sheet about the bill is available here.

KUPU 'AINA CORPS IS TAKING APPLICATIONS for jobs from $16 to $20 an hour for a one year term, July 2023 - July 2024. With a deadline to apply June 23, Kupu is offering an opportunity to gain real-world job experience within the green jobs sector of the economy in emerging industries (green jobs, agriculture, environmental technology, renewable energy, GIS/GPS, and sustainable infrastructure). 
    Kupu is a non-profit organization that aims to empower emerging professionals in Hawaiʻi with meaningful, hands-on opportunities in the conservation field. Positions are available for ages 17+ for a full-time (40 hrs/week) or part-time (20 hrs/week), one-year term, July 2023–July 2024, on Hawaiʻi
island, Kauaʻi, Maui, Molokai, and Oʻahu. The financial compensation of $16-$20/hour  comes with benefits including medical insurance, paid time off, retention bonus, certifications, and networking opportunities. See Kupu ʻĀina Corps for further information. Apply here

KUPU CONSERVATION LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM is offering full time AmeriCorps positions, starting in October, for gaining hands-on experience working with non-profit organizations and government agencies leading the conservation field in Hawaiʻi.
    Jobs in this field are expected to grow in Kaʻū since there are more lands conserved in this district than, perhaps, any other district in Hawai'i, with much of the coast preserved, state and Kamehameha Schools lands, as well as Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park.  
    Positions are available for ages 17+ for a full-time (40 hrs/week), six- or 11-month term, starting in October 2023 on Hawaiʻi Island, Kauaʻi, Maui, Molokai, and Oʻahu as well as Guam, CNMI, Saipan, and American Samoa.
     The scope of service includes conservation, native plant and animal management, trail restoration, botany, education, outreach, ornithology, aquatic resource management, and Native Hawaiian cultural stewardship. Financial compensation is up to $6,895 with a monthly living allowance of minimum $2,000 and benefits including AmeriCorps student loan interest payment, healthcare and childcare benefits, paid time off, and networking opportunities. See Kupu Conservation Leadership Development Program for further information.