Residents can choose on term limits, but not on affordable housing

Today will be a potpourri of housing policy and politics, relating to issues before the Kauai County Council.

The 3 percent for affordable housing proposed charter amendment that was introduced by Councilmember JoAnn Yukimura was shot down this past Wednesday by the council majority.

It is interesting that Councilmember Ross Kagawa believes that voters are smart enough to remove term limits for him and his colleagues, but not smart enough to vote on budget priorities.

I found the argument made “that the setting of budget priorities is beyond the scope of regular voters” was a bit disingenuous. In the past voters chose to create an “open space fund” via this same process. This fund has been enormously successful, and has not adversely impacted the budget process one iota.

The question of whether this type of initiative should be done “by ordinance” or “by charter amendment,” is a valid one. The ordinance is a route that allows for more budget flexibility and does in fact, at first glance, seem the more sensible route to take.

However the reality is that future councils may or may not place funding of affordable housing as a priority, and consequently there may or may not be the funds available for housing on a year-to-year basis. More importantly, the “ordinance route” is not a “dedicated funding stream” which is needed to support the floating of long-term low interest bonds necessary to do large projects.

Dedicating 3 percent of property taxes to funding affordable housing via a charter amendment, would give the county instant access to over $50 million that could be used tomorrow to begin a major affordable housing project (or projects). Working in partnership with private non-profit affordable housing developers, and utilizing other federal and state matching funds, it is not unreasonable that this amount could double or triple via further leveraging. In other words, Kauai could increase its affordable housing inventory significantly during our lifetime.

A budget ordinance may give the County Housing Agency $4 million in any given year (based on the current proposal) if the council during a given year, decides that housing is a priority.

So, the people can choose a path that grants them access to $50 million today for affordable housing, or take a chance that future councils may or may not budget drips and drabs of funding.

Oh wait, the people will not have a choice, because the council voted down the measure and will not allow the matter to be on the ballot. But you will be given the opportunity to choose to remove the existing term limits for councilmembers, and allow them to serve in perpetuity.

On other matters relating to housing: At today’s regular Wednesday meeting, the Council will be discussing and voting on the up-zoning of Rice Street initiative introduced by Councilmember Brun (Bill 2687).

The broad scope of the testimony given during last week’s public hearing was thoughtful and consistent. In general the testimony was in support of giving property owners the benefit of doubling their allowable density, IF there were measures in place to ensure that the increased density would be used for affordable housing. It will be interesting if the council acknowledges this important element, totally lacking now in the proposed ordinance.

Actually it’s bit worse than that. The proposal now on the table does not even mention the word affordable in its existing language.

My complements to the increasing number of citizens getting involved in the process and showing up at the Council meetings. Please know that your voice is important, and please continue showing up. Bring a friend or neighbor with you next time. Or at the minimum, send an email to the council at: counciltestimony@kauai.gov

It’s call civic engagement. And to create and preserve the future our children and grandchildren deserve, we need more of it.

•••

Gary Hooser formerly served in the state Senate, where he was majority leader. He also served for eight years on the Kauai County Council and was former director of the state Office of Environmental Quality Control. He serves presently in a volunteer capacity as board president of the Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action (HAPA) and is executive director of the Pono Hawaii Initiative.

13 Comments
  1. livealoha July 18, 2018 1:58 am Reply

    Thank you Gary. My hope is that the upcoming elections will weed out those who have self interests for serving on the county council or as Mayor. Unfortunately, what we often see is that those who serve selflessly with minds open to change often get voted off. I was sorry to see you go but glad that you are still in here as a game changer.


  2. Charlie Chimknee July 18, 2018 7:53 am Reply

    Aloha Mr. Hooser,

    Your concern for affordable housing on the one hand is applaudible, but on the other it is an unfair burden on hard working tax payers.

    Allowing an affordable housing scheme to be put into the charter that forces the property tax payers to carry the burden of $4,000,000.00 per year from their taxes until the next County Charter, is an unfair burden on the property tax payers.

    The discrimination and unfairness of such a scheme is:
    1.) it allows the general public portion of NON property tax payers to decide where the hard working MONEY of the property tax payers’ money will be spent, that is, on NON property tax paying peoples’ benefits, which is affordable housing, which means a considerable amount of their housing would be FREE, while the hard double working tax payers pay for that housing while the recipients are at the beach. And how many are fresh off the airplane?

    2.) Case in Point is that while one property tax payer neighbor (a couple) is working 2 full time jobs each, paying for their 2 bedroom home (with 2 kids in same kids’ bedroom).

    3.) Their next door neighbor is living on HUD and Food Stamps, works part time with plenty beach and bar leisure time, HUD pays 75% of his rent on a 3 bedroom home, he has 2 upper teen aged grandkids living there, each with their own bedroom, whose parents are somewhere living on drugs paying nothing for these adult teens.

    4.) This neighbor is hoping to vote YES on the new Charter Affordable Housing Amendment relying on the 2 bedroom 4 jobs neighbor couple to pay the cost for the bill for his AFFORDABLE new home and still hang out at the beach and bar.

    It makes sense that if the Landlord lowers the rent to affordable, shouldn’t that Landlord be given a lower property tax bracket, and shouldn’t the HUD tenant be made to work, in addition to his part time job or even full time, cleaning some part of the island since he is getting a 75% Free Ride on housing.

    5.) If $4 million is set aside for affordable housing, how many houses does that provide…seems like that covers about 10 houses.

    6.) And who will be the lucky winners? Lottery, certain requirements, or friends or relatives of the system.

    7.) The old adage “ you get what you work for” is not that old to not not continue to apply.

    8.) If $4 Million built 400 Tiny Houses (they talk about $4,000 tiny houses) out on the Polihale “Flats”, now that would put a lot of people under a roof and a typical suburb housing commute to paid jobs or “free” government cleaning jobs.

    Why not?

    Mahalo,

    Charles


  3. Charlie Chimknee July 18, 2018 8:12 am Reply

    Aloha Mr. Hooser,

    And what about making it clear that if you own a piece of land big enough for another full size house, then by all means allow that 2nd building to be built.

    More than likely it will be for family or local people looking to rent, and then lower the property tax on that new 2nd house as it ultimately raises the property tax on that property as a while anyway having a 2nd house, and results in net more income for the County and more affordable housing.

    Mahalo,

    Charles


    1. NoMakeSenseBrah July 19, 2018 10:14 pm Reply

      Food stamps and HUD are both FEDERALLY FUNDED. It is a transfer of wealth from the 320 million mainlanders to the 1.5 million people in Hawaii. The landlords spend that money to live in Hawaii which goes partly to local taxes, and to provide jobs and income for the hardworking people just scraping by at jobs earning less than $20 an hour who you claim are being harmed by this massive flood of mainland cash into Kaua’i.

      You can’t buy a house with HUD rental assistance OR food stamps so these arguments are straw men.

      you lolo brah


  4. Charlie Chimknee July 18, 2018 8:14 am Reply

    Ooops…meant to be “on That property as a Whole…”

    Mahalo,

    Charles


  5. Yeah, right! July 18, 2018 8:56 am Reply

    Sure, Gary! Conflating term limits, a pretty simple, uncomplicated issue, with “affordable housing”, a very multi faceted issue, and of course, Gary has to intimate that people are not “smart” or “informed” enough to “vote” on capturing their tax dollars, to be used……for what again? And not just “tax” dollars, but property tax dollars, as if it is the fault or responsibility of Kauai resident home and land owners to “solve” the ” affordable housing” conumdrum. More Hooser BS! The housing issue will not be resolved, or solved, by politicians throwing more tax money at it. Lets up the county sales tax to 1.5%, and see what kind of a response is given. While 3% does seem like a large sum, its will not even make a dent in this issue, but it is surely enough to curtail the services Kauai’s resident home and property owners depend on, and expect to be paid by the property taxes they are required to pay. Leave already stretched property taxes alone! Find another place to collect your 3% tax, Hooser, that all the stake holders can agree on. Why should I wish voters who own no property or housing on Kauai to have a stake in whether or not a percentage, any percentage, of property taxes, are “earmarked”, for anything? Lets put an additional county sales tax on the ballot, and see if people are silly enough to “vote” themselves higher taxes….At least ALL stakeholders would be able to vote up or down on that! But, like Yukimura, Hooser loves to spend, which is one of the reasons he no longer sits on the counsel, and TGI finds it appropriate to give more press than he deserves.


  6. Uncleaina July 18, 2018 10:15 am Reply

    Aloha Gary – what $50 million you talking about? You never seen explained that at all. Or was that some of your trickster language? I DONT want affordable housing to be a major priority of the council. We don’t have the money and whatever $50 million you’re talking about is probably some word game you’re playing.


  7. Joan Conrow July 18, 2018 1:33 pm Reply

    Poor Gary. Still desperately seeking relevance. Too bad he chose mob rule over the “civic engagement” he now preaches. He might have kept his seat on the Council instead of being sidelined by Akamai voters.


    1. Gary Hooser July 18, 2018 8:29 pm Reply

      Joan, Your obsessive fixation on me is not healthy. Have you thought about seeking counseling? Seriously. I am concerned about your mental health and well being. Your comment has nothing to do with the content of the piece, but only attacks me personally. Cyber stalking me from New Mexico demonstrates some deep seated issue that you harbor within yourself Joan. I pray that you will seek help from the darkness and demons that torment you.


  8. I saw a Vampire once July 18, 2018 1:47 pm Reply

    What is interesting is you writing on politics. This whole idea of automation has become a life boat saver for those not smart enough to figure out politics and how it works. DLNR for example; why would they consort with an unqualified county council on matters as the Airports being renovated or even restructured? Because this would be ridiculous. The project is just that and set. How many years has it been since the airports has been rechecked? Or maybe considering lengthening the runway to at least 9,000 feet. Oahu’s cross runway into the mountains off the beach is about 9,000 feet in length. It is safer to land on the regular 12,000 feet runway. That is the runway parallel to H1 freeway and elevated above the ground. Can you give any reason why the county council should proceed with the concerns? Longer runway. I can’t see this happening. This is one issue. The last change was in 1989. Who was he? Mel Rapozo? On the county council then. Term limits? Why didn’t you just rerun for county councilmen if you felt this way? No need of term limits.


  9. I saw a Vampire once July 18, 2018 2:02 pm Reply

    Do you really want politics? Be at Hanapepe or Eleelee school tonight. And ask the question most people are concerned with. Will my son or daughter get medical help? She is just a waiter at a hotel in poipu and the hotel is not offering any medical plan. Where does she fit in now? This would be a family of 5 in Kekaha. The income is most needed. The company pays a portion of the medical plan, but since they are not offering medical, the medical has to come from another source. So how much does the daughter pay if she goes to a doctor? ( check up if she has cancer of the what? ) just regular check ups.


  10. Oingo boingo July 18, 2018 2:56 pm Reply

    Affordible housing on kauai is the single biggest issue facing our local residents…and it’s not going to fix its self anytime soon..


  11. Lucas Le July 18, 2018 10:45 pm Reply

    the programs mentioned in Charlie Chimknee’s opinion need to be reformed as Welfare Reformed, there are more jobs in the U.S.A. than needed workers, just go to work and be financially independent people.


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