Ron Kouchi: To focus on affordable housing, homelessness and rural healthcare

LIHUE — Ron Kouchi, seeking re-election to the state Senate, said the Kauai legislative team made impacts in several areas, and if re-elected, he will continue to push and advocate for residents.

Some of these issues include affordable housing and addressing homelessness, funding for and availability of rural healthcare services, funding for the Department of Education to address heat abatement and on-campus connectivity.

“And, most certainly, continued funds to mitigate traffic and improve our roadways,” said Kouchi, who is Senate president. “While this new position requires me to serve the entire state, Kauai and Ni‘ihau will always be where my heart, and my home is. It is my hope that as the Senate president, I am able to bring Kauai, Ni‘ihau and neighbor island issues to the forefront.”

An alumni of Waimea High School, Kouchi, 58, is married to the former Joy Tanimoto and resides in Lihue. They have two sons, Dan and Egan.

First elected to the Senate six years ago, Kouchi and the Kauai legislative team secured $114 to invest in Kauai’s schools, roads, highways, bridges, affordable housing, and social services.

The Lima Ola affordable housing project received $13 million this year from the Legislature, Kouchi said.

There was $100 million of general fund monies committed to fund heat abatement in public schools.

Also included in this year’s budget was $2 million for the Kauai Community College’s culinary arts program to expand its facilities.

He said the Legislature will continue to work with the County of Kauai.

“To that end, we were able to secure more than $10 million in funding this year, and more than $9 million in funding last year — specifically for county projects,” he said.

“All of these capital projects are not just projects or intangible ideas,” he said. “These funds and these projects are part of a greater whole. They help to ensure that our community has the resources and programs that we need to sustain our lives. Likewise, in terms of our public school system, the best way that we can empower our students to succeed is to give them the necessary tools they will need.”

Kouchi said Kauai’s hospitals are in better financial shape today than they were in the previous decade.

“This session, we reauthorized the ‘Hospital Sustainability’ bill that will ensure the financial solvency of all Hawaii Healthcare Systems Corporation hospitals, and of the G.N. Wilcox Memorial Hospital,” he said. “This will ensure that everyone on Kauai and Ni‘ihau has access to proper medical care and facilities.”

Kouchi said when looking at the issue of affordable housing, there are two parts that need to be recognized.

“The first is affordable housing for homeownership,” he said. “The second is affordable rental housing. The Lima Ola affordable housing project in Eleele will offer both homeownership and affordable rentals, and is one of the key reasons why we pushed for, and secured funding this session.”

Additional affordable housing projects are currently in preliminary discussion phases for the Poipu area. The state has tax credits of 4 to 9 percent in place to incentivize the production of more affordable housing projects.

He said Kalea Village in Hanamaulu and Pa‘anau Village in Koloa are two examples of the utilization of these types of credits.

“Another avenue that we are employing for the homeownership sector is in working with entities such as the Habitat for Humanity and Self-Help projects where homeowners can invest their sweat-equity to realize their dream of becoming homeowners,” Kouchi said.

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