In a recent online poll, The Garden Island asked this question: What is the most important issue facing Kauai this year?
The results of that poll were not surprising.
• 159 votes for “Overtourism. We have too many people on our little island and it’s taking a toll in many ways. Something must be done to find balance between tourism and maintaining lifestyle.”
• 158 votes for, “There are too many issues that need to be addressed to name just one.”
• 144 votes for, “Lack of affordable housing can’t afford to live here anymore.”
• 22 votes for Environment is suffering. Earth and ocean are in trouble. Paradise is in danger.”
Withe 2019 legislative about to get under way on Wednesday, we bring this up as a helpful reminder to our legislators about what’s on the minds of their constituents.
We all know that the growth of tourism is a double-edged sword. We need our visitors to keep coming here because Kauai’s economic success hinges on the success of tourism. Without our visitors, many jobs would disappear. The problem, as many point out, is that a thriving tourism industry means more rental cars on the roads, more people at beaches and more annoyed locals. It means life as many used to know it is no more and likely never will be again.
This isn’t something new. The increase of tourism is not a secret. Hard to hide the extra 100,000 people or so each month to come to this island. But a solution isn’t going to come any time soon or be something short and sweet. It’s like like airlines are going to stop flying folks to Hawaii. It’s like like resorts are going to stop providing them with rooms. It’s not like rental car agencies will stop renting cars, no how much some shout for them to do just that. This is a sticky situation that, likely, our legislators will not be able to resolve. Just too many moving parts for government to come up with a solution that would keep everyone happy.
Based on the poll results, housing is another area of most concern to people. This is an area where the government can and should play a key role in seeking to satisfy those who argue that locals are being priced out of the housing market, and those who argue that this is about private enterprise and developers and land owners are not operating charitable operations and we should not expect them to, either.
More affordable housing must be created. It’s the only way, down the road, to keep low-income locals home. That means, however, something people on Kauai are usually against — building up, building higher. But any developer will tell you, the more housing units you can fit on piece of land, the lower that cost of housing becomes. Affordable apartment projects, like Kolopua Apartments in Princeville, are huge success stories.
That one was years in the making and today, it provides housing in an area that offers little, otherwise. It’s an excellent project.
We’re not saying build 10-story apartment buildings. We are staying land is limited on an island and low-income apartments canbe built cost-effectively and meet a desperate need. Yes, people will argue it’s not the role of government or private landowners to provide affordable housing. Rather, it’s up to people to earn more money (and we won’t go into talk about raising the state’s minimum wage to avoid).
Anyway, the state in 2015 predicted Hawaii’s population growth would drive the need for 65,000 new housing units by 2025.
Last year’s legislation aimed to create 25,000 affordable housing units by the year 2030.
The measure included $200 million for the state’s Rental Housing Revolving Fund, which provides low-interest loans or grants to affordable housing developers. It set aside $360 million over 12 years to expand and extend a general excise tax exemption for the construction of affordable housing. The final $10 million went to a fund that provides interim construction financing.
The people have indicated affordable housing is a priority on Kauai. We ask that our legislators to make it theirs, as well.