HONOLULU (KHON2) — The State’s School Facilities Authority was formed in 2022 with the intention to build more classrooms faster throughout the state.
Its newest project is to add housing exclusively for teachers and staff, and they are relying on the State Legislature to approve millions of dollars in funding to begin the work.
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It is yet another approach to attract more into teaching and help those already working at certain schools. Senate Bill 941 is moving along in the State Legislature proposing to fund housing developments near three schools with $185 million.
The breakdown of the funding would go as follow:
$65 million for Mililani High School.
$60 million for Waipahu High School .
$60 million for Nanakuli High and Intermediate School.
The School Facilities Authority Executive Director Chad Keone Farias said these are projects have been a long time coming for the state.
“This has been a talking point for DOE and an asking point for quite some time. For at least 30 years, I’ve been in the department to attract and retain teachers,” Farias said. “One thing is to try to increase teacher pay, and we’ve done pretty well with it. But, not to the point where they can afford a livable wage here for housing.”
The proposal puts a parameter to build the housing units within the schools’ two-mile radius. Farias said they are also considering building within the school campuses.
Farias said, “Mililani High School has an area where there’s just a whole bunch of portables; and, so, we want to remove those portables possibly and put the housing there and add some classrooms to the building or around the building.”
The SFA is in its early planning stages for these projects. Farias said they are also looking at state-owned land to develop near Waipahu and Nanakuli High Schools.
They plan on keeping prices around 80% of the median income.
The Hawaii State Teachers Association supports the projects. President Osa Tui said affordable housing options are a big hurdle in attracting and retaining teachers.
“It can’t be, you know, a gigantic proportion of someone’s paycheck; so, maybe making sure that it is proportional to the teacher’s paycheck might be one way to go about that,” Tui said. “People in the House and the Senate, they are hearing that housing is an issue. Housing is one of the number one priorities, top priority, you know, in the State.”
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The SFA has the power to negotiate contracts, enter public-private partnerships and purchase land or real estate. Farias said they want to get to work underway, only waiting on funding.
Next week is the deadline for the bill to be heard in the House committee on finance.