New proposals aim to add affordable housing by creating incentives for developers

Local News

The mayor and the city council say they are looking to create more housing options aimed at local residents. 

In his State of the City address, Mayor Kirk Caldwell unveiled his proposal to open up more housing options on Oahu by creating a vacancy fee for owners of residential properties that are sitting unused. 

“Vancouver in British Columbia did much the same thing, passing a vacancy fee,” said Caldwell. “When they did, they saw 53 percent of vacant properties return to the rental market.”

How much a property owner could pay hasn’t been decided, but he says the ultimate goal would be to bring back these housing options. 

But that alone doesn’t solve the issue of being able to afford a place to live on Oahu.

City council member Ann Kobayshi says the island needs at least 20,000 more affordable units.

“The houseless problem has gotten so severe that I think government, developers, many of our community leaders are concerned about our city,” said Kobayashi.

She’s introduced a bill that would create new incentives for building developers, including the option to have some taxes and fees waived if developers reserve at least 75 percent of units in a building for affordable housing. 

“Not having to pay property tax during construction, not having to pay the wastewater facility fee or the permit fee, that’s a great savings for developers. So then they can afford to build affordable housing,” said Kobayashi.

Another bill with similar incentives was also introduced to the City Council by council member Kymberly Pine. It would allow state development projects approved by the Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corporation as affordable housing projects, to receive those same exemptions.

For now, the mayor says, the City and County of Honolulu is doing what it can to provide more options for Oahu residents. 

“We committed to get 800 affordable unit houses out every single year,” said Caldwell. “This is where our focus needs to be.”

The mayor says he is also looking at opening up affordable housing through regulation of vacation rental homes through a new bill.

For a link to the full State of the City Address you can visit this link.

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