Answering affordable housing charter amendment questions

  • Contributed photo

    County Councilmember JoAnn A. Yukimura

Mahalo to Peter Nilson for his letter to the editor (TGI, July 2)) and to those who asked about the proposed affordable housing charter amendment. This kind of discussion is important if we want more affordable homes!

The charter amendment would earmark 3 percent of existing real property tax revenues for the development of affordable housing, defined as requiring not more than 30 percent of household income for mortgage or rent. Let us be clear: this would use existing real property tax revenues, NOT raise taxes.

Question/Comment: ​Based on the recently updated General Plan, at an average subsidy of $200,000 per unit and the need for 8,000 new subsidized units over 20 years, total capital needed is $1.6 billion; the charter amendment would only generate a total of $80 million.

Answer:​ As Mr. Nilsen correctly notes, the need seems overwhelming — but it shouldn’t stop us from doing as much as we can. We won’t know how much we can do unless we try. The $4.3 million generated each year will provide a stable, committed fund without which the county will not be able to accelerate its affordable housing efforts.

As inadequate as it may seem, the monies will not be insignificant to the 400 families that could be housed over the next 20 years with that money (unleveraged) — or the 800 families that would get homes if the county could leverage a 1:1 match from federal or state monies or from developer contributions of land, infrastructure or money.

There are many ways we could use the earmarked 3 percent fund to increase affordable housing:

1) Use it as a source for attracting matching federal and state funding or public private partnerships.

2) Float a bond and leverage a lot more than $80 million for housing development.

3) Finance construction of infrastructure and/or buildings of a project.

4) Add county money to a project applying for low-income housing tax credits (LIHTCs) to make the project more competitive and more likely to secure the tax credits.

5) Finance homes for families between 60 percent and 140 percent of median income which are not covered by LIHTCs, thereby creating more diverse communities while providing more housing.

6) Buy land for affordable housing, as we did for the Rice Camp Senior Housing Project.

7) Do a pilot project with tiny homes or a “Housing First” project for homeless.

8) Increase the number of federal HUD vouchers by paying for some of the vouchers ourselves, thereby maintaining more than the level granted by HUD, which qualifies us for even more HUD vouchers.

Question/Comment: ​What existing service or line item in the county budget will be displaced by an affordable housing earmark​?

Answer: ​ None. No line item will be impacted. In recent budget decision-making on FY19 county budget, the council approved Councilmember Mason Chock’s proposal to raise real property tax rates on the vacation rental and residential investor properties.

These increases in real property tax rates will generate about $4 million in new revenues each year. While some on the council wanted to use all of the $4 million for affordable housing in the FY19 budget, the council instead unanimously allocated part for housing and part for certain one-time expenses.

If voters pass the proposed charter amendment, all of the additional revenues from vacation rentals and expensive residential investor properties would be used for affordable housing each year.

Question/Comment: ​ What happens if there is a natural disaster or drastic downturn in the economy and real property values plummet?

Answer:​ This proposal provides flexibility to respond to such challenges. If real property values drop, so will the amount earmarked for affordable housing. But there will be legitimate housing needs for those monies, too. If there is a natural disaster, it is likely there will be a large need for housing — both temporary and permanent.

At such times, there are also great opportunities to acquire land for future housing, as we did with Kalepa Village land after Hurricane ‘Iniki. Building affordable housing at times like these also helps to keep contractors busy and revitalize the economy while expanding the affordable housing inventory that will be needed again in the next economic upturn.

In summary, affordable housing is perhaps the most important and complex challenge facing Kauai County today. Funding this critical work is only the first step, but it is essential. Strong voter support is the best way we can all contribute to a lasting, long-term solution — first by supporting the council in approving Resolution 2018-23 to put the amendment on the ballot (send testimony to and second, by generating an overwhelming affirmative vote in the General Election that puts our money where our mouth is — for affordable housing!


Councilmember JoAnn Yukimura currently sits on the County Council and was mayor of Kauai from 1988 to 1994.

  1. Reverend Malama Robinson July 7, 2018 4:53 am Reply

    All talk no action…..

    If there’s a disaster there is no housing either… epic fail by the illegal ocuppiers claiming to run our island

  2. Jake July 7, 2018 5:43 am Reply

    This is all insanity.

    “Affordable Housing” = Taking taxpayer money to “subsidize” another person’s income in order to provide a place to live.

    This amendment solves nothing. All it does is MITIGATE one problem and then creates another problem.

    SOLUTION: Take the 3% of property taxes, and use it to fund a “Transition Fund” to get people off the island, to an area of much lower cost of living AND better job opportunities. This eliminates decades of providing “subsidized” housing which can be used to improve island infrastructure for EVERYONE……not just those that try to fight supply-and-demand, and then turn to the Government to solve their problem.

    THE SOLUTION, that no politician wants to say because it will not get them elected. The truth stings when facts are presented. If you cannot afford to live on the island, then you take your family where there are more opportunities and a lower cost of living. Stop the madness of Government trying to solve problems.

  3. gordon oswald July 7, 2018 7:07 am Reply

    I’m always skeptical when Government decides to go into the free market system and somehow influence the direction of business. We saw under Obama how that works? I’m also skeptical that if the 3% is taken from other sources it will be a convenient excuse next year to raise the property taxes on already overburdened home owners. If Government is one thing, it’s predictable! It has proven time and time again that interfere on one level make waves on may other levels that Politicians didn’t even have the background, or knowledge to predict unforeseen business killing results. I love Joanne and think she’s done more than just about anyone for Kauai. But, one must be overly cautious here.

  4. manawai July 7, 2018 8:38 am Reply

    This program won’t cost us any more money because we’ve already voted to increase taxes on people who have no voice in our government! How cool is that? How American! Plus, for our many local rental owners, they can simply raise Kauai’s already skyrocketing rents on their tenants who are our lowest income residents. JoAnn loves to paint pretty pictures that ignore the negative impacts on those she’s supposedly attempting to help. I guess she’s thinking that if you don’t buy one of these “affordable” houses, then it’s going to cost you higher rents for your home. Great thinking, JoAnn!

  5. harry oyama July 7, 2018 8:49 am Reply

    Sure, “affordable” housing becomes valid if you and your partner works two or more jobs each with no time for actually enjoying life! What is missing is a business approach that LLC or LLP Limited Liability Partnership investments where a set amount of office space building is set aside for low income families which is tax deductable for the investor. Hawaii (being business unfriendly) does not offer such investments as in Boston where I have invested and got an annual tax write off that actually came close to the exact amount invested on top of dividends, so I actually make money, which was paid to that State and not Hawaii. So Hawaii stupid politicians lost out on this.

  6. Uncleaina July 7, 2018 9:32 am Reply

    Classic answer from Joanne: “just wait 20 years and it’ll be fixed”. The solution isn’t giving $200,000 to each family needing housing, Joanne! You can bring in mainland labor and build decent housing for 1/10 the price. $5 million can build something 50 people can live in. We’re already wasting more money than that on running the giant (but empty) buses you bought us! Redo paratransit using Uber- sell the 35 seat buses and buy vans- use taxes to PAY for kids to ride the school bus – and widen Kuhio Highway so we can get to work. Stop a plan to give homeless people $200,000!!

  7. Charlie Chimknee July 7, 2018 1:32 pm Reply

    Aloha Kakou,

    1.) all the people on island in need of housing, 

    2.) and all the people off island whether in the USA or Foreign countries already planning to move here,

    3.) All the future visitors who will have a reality check and decide to move here permanently

    4.) and all the Kaua’i born and raised children and youth ( just born and those up to 20 years old, and even those living temporarily in “pregnancy housing”)…just count all school children in Kauai schools right now and add that number to those who will be in need.

    What number is it that will need housing In the next 20years?

    Yesterday a televised County Council meeting had Doug Haigh of our Dept of Public Works say that low income housing people want houses of 1,500 square feet…REALLY…?

    You mean my income tax (that goes for HUD) and my property tax on my 900 square foot home are gonna subsidize welfare recipients so they can have 1,500 sq. ft. houses? 

    Really…? and besides the bank owning part of my home…and the termites owning much of the rest…! And then if Kauai County gets its ditter, the people on welfare and/or low income will have a portion of my home and paycheck too. Why did I work 2 jobs my whole life to get ahead and own a home to have it doled out to those who prefer relaxation over hard work or diligent study education? They even get a part of my Social Security check as a penalty for working as a senior, but who can survive without work. 

    Low income, means you’re only willing to work one job, if that is what you want, fine, but don’t ask me and others to support you. You wanna come Kauai be ready to work 2 jobs. It’s a fact of life few can appreciate. Paradise is a day off…! ! ! Every once in a while. 



  8. Joe Public July 8, 2018 9:10 pm Reply

    So we get punished for working 2-3 jobs to get a roof over my head so I can pay for someone else to get a home?? Joann is nuts!! Why doesn’t she and her family donate their lands and assets to build “affordable homes”.

    I will never vote for her, or any of those that support this ridicules bill. Ever heard of Robin Hood? And we are not even rich! we just work to get by…This is ludicrous..

  9. Sarah July 11, 2018 9:52 am Reply

    Thank you Joanne for your continued dedication to the people of Kaua’i. There is no solution that will make everyone happy. It is easy to say it’s not enough and do nothing. But if a fraction of local people are helped, I think that’s better than nothing and it’s a step in the right direction. Kaua’i land prices have skyrocketed over the years, driven up by the large influx of people moving here and luxury (second or third) homes being built.

    If someone is born and raised here and all their family is here and has been for generations, I don’t think it is outrageous to ask our County to look out for their best interests. It is not reasonable to say to these people that since you can no longer afford to live here you should move.

    Our main industry is tourism. Instead of catering to visitors, special interests, and the very wealthy, it’s refreshing for an elected official to have the backbone to do the right thing.

    It makes me feel good to help others. It is no skin off our backs if this is approved, we are taxed regardless. I would much rather it go towards people that can really benefit from it versus beaurocratic bullshit.

    Let’s remember that we all want the same things in life. What we have in common far outweigh our differences. Let’s open our hearts to people we don’t understand. You may never need this type of assistance, but does that make you better? Let’s not let the fear of what might happen paralyzed us from doing something positive.

    Joanne’s initiatives over the years have been significant and forward thinking. She is not perfect but her heart is in the right place. I truly believe she has Kaua’i ‘s best interest at heart. That coupled with intelligence and integrity has won my trust in her.

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