HONOLULU (KHON2) — Help is on the way for middle-income families struggling to find housing. Lawmakers want to entice more developers to build rental units that are affordable for working families.

Affordable housing has been a constant challenge in Hawaii as real estate prices continue to skyrocket. The state has created incentives for developers to build more affordable homes usually for low-income families — those who are making 60% or below the area median income.

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Lawmakers in the House have introduced a bill that would put $150 million into the revolving fund for rental housing. But this time, the goal is to provide affordable rentals for middle-income families.

“It’s the first time we’re doing a target for working families, recognizing that unless we help to subsidize these units, they won’t get built,” said Rep. Nadine Nakamura, Housing Committee Chair.

The goal is to provide rentals for families earning 61 to 100% of the area’s median income.

“Let’s say a two-bedroom unit — they could, at the low end, maybe a little over $1000, maybe $1,200 a month. And let’s say if they’re at 100% area median income, it would be maybe closer to $2,000 a month,” explained Nakamura.

The $150 million will be used to provide long-term, low-interest loans to developers who are willing to build affordable projects. Nakamura said the plan is to get at least 750 units built. She added that it is critical to provide this support to families who have been neglected.

“This is our workforce. A lot of families in this category decide not to stay in Hawaii because they can’t really find affordable housing.”

Rep. Nadine Nakamura, Housing Committee Chair

The governor pointed out that the good thing with affordable rentals is they remain occupied by residents, whereas affordable homes that are sold do not always stay that way.

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“The challenge with for sale is that you know they’re affordable on the first sale. Then the price starts to increase to what the market will bear,” said Gov. David Ige.