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Thursday, June 15, 2023

Kaʻū News Briefs, Thursday, June 15, 2023

Prebuilt home manufacturing was on display at the National Mall last weekend during an Innovative Housing Showcase, sponsored by HUD, which put Hawai'i's housing shortage front and center at Hawai'i on the Hill Policy Summit on Wednesday.
Photo from HUD

MEETING HOUSING NEEDS IN HAWAI'I was center stage Wednesday at Hawai'i on the Hill Policy Summit in Washington, D.C. U.S. Secretary of Housing & Urban Development Marcia Fudge focused exclusively on Hawai'i. She attended the session along with local officials from Hawai'i, including Hawai'i state Senator Tim Richards and representatives of businesses and agencies. Hawai'i on the Hill is sponsored by Sen. Mazie Hirono, Chamber of Commerce of Hawai'i and others.
   The HUD Secretary pointed to Hirono's efforts to end homeless, to make housing affordable and increase home ownership. She said she has also talked with Gov. Josh Green and that she plans to visit Hawai'i in July. Fudge said that housing is a crisis, particularly acute in Hawai'i. 
    Richards talked about large families living in small homes  this island and said those needing housing are probably undercounted in statistics. He said such large families are in small houses because "we house our people because we take care of our people."
    The HUD Secretary said, "It's hard to count somebody who is sleeping on a couch in their cousin's house or parents' house. They may in fact be homeless. but if we never can find that person because they are couch surfing, then it's hard to count them."
    The HUD Secretary said this country is short about 3.8 million housing units. "By 2025 Hawai'i is going to need about 50,000 additional housing units." She said people are being pushed to the point of  spending half their resources on rent or mortgages and can't afford neighborhoods of their choice where their children can go to good schools where they have access to work.
    In addition, Hawai'i has one of highest percentage-wise homeless populations in the U.S. The HUD Secretary said that 500,000 people in U.S. sleep on the streets in any one night. Almost 200,000 of them are veterans. "It is a tragedy." She also noted that "Unsheltered rural homelessness is growing fast in this country," and said that U.S. Department of Agriculture can help.
    Concerning other high costs here, she said she was told about eggs in Hawai'i being $9 a dozen. She said Hawai'i is the most expensive state in the United States to live.
    Addressing the cost of housing construction, the HUD Secretary promised that $85 million in grants will be offered to communities that are making progress in improving their zoning practices to assist in tackling the issue. Zoning alone can increase cost of a home by 25 percent, she said.
U.S. Housing & Urban Development Secretary
Marcia Fudge focused on Hawai'i's challenges
with affordable housing and homelessness at
Hawai'i on the Hill Policy Summit on Wednesday.

 She also suggested that cost can be reduced through new innovations in prebuilt home manufacturing. HUD sponsored an Innovative Housing Showcase on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. June 9-11.    See https://www.hud.gov/Innovative_Housing for a list of innovators.
   The Secretary of HUD said, she needs "to hear more from people on the ground working on these issues everyday." There are more resources today in communities all across this country than there has ever been. "If we cannot do it now, we can not do it."
   She urged the public to become more involved, to make a plan....so that the money is used for improving housing.
    During a roundtable discussion including people from Hawai'i who attended Hawai'i on the Hill, Sen. Mazie Hirono said housing is probably the number one issue in Hawai'i and noted that zoning is a county issue. Hawai'i Island state Senator Tim Richards and County Council member Sue Lee Loy both attended and pointed not only to local building codes but also to federal agency "codes" and requirements for funding that are often different from one agency to another, complicating coordination for funding.
     Richards pointed to water and wastewater infrastructure as a big barrier to affordable housing. The HUD Secretary said "the real money" is in the federal Department of Transportation and EPA and that she 
would help connect Hawai'i to the funders.
     She also suggested renovation of commercial buildings for housing, saying costs are often lower since the existing structures often require less compliance than new buildings. She also urged for existing housing to be retrofitted for energy efficiency and said HUD is giving grants and that the Climate Bill has money. She said USDA helps to fund lots of rural housing. "We need to find ways to help people where they are."
    She suggested financing accessory dwellings ('ohana dwellings),  making low cost loans to developers to construct more affordable housing and more incentives in providing low income tax credits to builders of housing.
    State Senate President Ron Kouchi, from Kaua'i, attended along with Kaua'i Mayor Derek Kawakami. 
They shared that one of the challenges is that no neighborhood is going to want an affordable housing project in their backyard. They said they overcame the bias by placing their current development on open land where they are building a mixed use affordable housing community where the poor and the more
wealthy are not separated. Kouchi said the key was that they started with building the shelter first on the land, then adding multi family, then single family homes. 
   Kawakami said, "We're not going to divide our people based on income bracket. These families are going to grow up the way that we all grew up, which is we had low income earners living next to high income earners. Low income earner families were able to rise up with everybody else."
    See the Hawai'i on the Hill Policy Summit on You Tube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Upv5nLSVRU

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HAWAI'I IS THE STATE ECONOMY HAS THE MOST RACIAL EQUALITY, according to a WalletHub report released Thursday. In order to determine which states have the most racial equality in terms of employment and wealth, WalletHub compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across eight key metrics. The data compares the difference between white and black Americans in areas such as annual income, unemployment rate and homeownership rate. Highlights from the report show that Hawai'i ranks as follows:
1st – Median Annual Household Income
7th – Labor-Force Participation Rate
18th – Homeownership Rate
1st – Poverty Rate
1st – Homeless Rate
1st – Share of Unsheltered Homeless
15th – Share of Executives
     To view the full report rankings for all the states and D.C., visit:

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THE SHIPPING SLOWDOWN AT THE DOCKS IN LOS ANGELES AND LONG BEACH is over. It began on June 9 and resulted in some supply chain issued for goods coming to Hawai'i. The two ports handle about 40 percent of all imports to the U.S. from Asia. Goods bound for Hawai'i are routed through LA because no large merchant ships come to Hawai'i from Asia. The International Longshore & Warehouse Union was on strike for 14 days before signing a tentative six year contract for 22,000 workers at 29 West Coast ports.

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