Housing should be priority

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.

  1. james January 15, 2019 6:38 am Reply

    It seems it is easy to advocate “affordable housing” but no one has any details on how to do it. How do you pay for it and who qualifies to live in it once it’s built? Does anyone really want their tax dollars to be spent on affordable housing instead of using the money to repair roads, fix traffic congestion, replace aging infrastructure, etc? Plus, affordable housing always tags along with a massive building project of non-affordable housing further taxing our roads, traffic and infrastructure. I would say we need to focus on fixing the problems of traffic and overcrowding, not affordable housing.

    1. MisterM January 15, 2019 4:52 pm Reply

      Great comment. Affordable housing all-too-often ends up a scam for developers to cram in extra units. Fix the roads/bridges first, then we can work on housing.

      That said, housing can easily be affordable if we build w/out all the so-called ‘modern conveniences’. How about tiny houses on tiny lots (aka worker’s cottages)? Does every house need granite counters, dishwashers, laundry rooms? Nobody had those 50 years ago and people managed just fine. But even supposedly low-end units have them now. Ask some builders to see what they can build for $100 sf, get the planning stiffs and hand-wringing NIMBYs out of the way and then order 100 1000 sf homes a year. That’s what happened after WW2 in places/like Levittown

  2. Charlie Chimknee January 15, 2019 7:11 am Reply

    Aloha Kakou,

    1 issue with housing on Kauai already partially solved, but solved on Oahu, is the length of time to get a permit for housing.

    Oahu was suffering like Kauai with 1 year, or even more, waits for processing times to get a building permit.

    Oahu made it so that if it takes more than 2 months to get a permit, that if you use (presumably) a certified Plan Checker (as in licensed engineer or architect) that you are somehow automatically permitted, and your waiting is over.

    This solves enormous financial waste because builders or families are paying high interest land and/or construction loans’ interest payments per month that in some smaller homes can equal the cost of the building materials…WASTED $$$…! ! !

    From surveyors, excavators, concrete workers, carpenters, electricians, plumbers, windows glazers, to roofers and landscapers; they are all out of work waiting on your permits. LOSE $$$…! ! !

    The new home owner is paying rent somewhere else waiting for their new home permit…LOSE $$$…! ! !

    And the county loses property tax money on a residence not completed which now with permit waits and construction time can stretch into a 3rd year before property tax on a residence is collected…County LOSES $$$…! ! !

    The county permitting agency and its workers are over worked, and if your county plan checker,say, in the Planning Dept goes on vacation for 2 weeks, well, you,wait. And when they return to work you may need to wait 2 to 4 weeks for your plans to move to the next department like The Building Dept, where that plan checker there may go on vacation for 2 more weeks etc., and need a few weeks more to check your plans on their return, and after all is said but not done, your plans are reviewed again where more corrections need to be addressed by one or more departments and so on and so forth, which plan corrections require your own plan maker to make those corrections perhaps taking a greater wait time than county process time.

    A year goes by quick…Kauai would serve itself better by following Honolulu’s lead and implementing a 2 month permit deadline wherein an outside certified plan checker can bring the plans to permit issuance. Everyone saves, home construction workers are earning incomes, county brings in more property tax dollars sooner, homeowner or builder does not waste money on unnecessary interest payments to the bank. And a family moves into their new home sooner.

    What could be a better win win situation…?



  3. Charlie Chimknee January 15, 2019 7:40 am Reply

    Aloha Kakou,

    Mayor Kawakami suggested while a councilman that we need 3 and 4 story homes in Kauai.

    This would allow great grand parents, grand parents,, parents, and children to live together but on separate floors, or extended family if not enough of the above.

    Or tenants could live in the Bldg and their rent could help with mortgage and taxes and maintenance. Great idea, everybody knows that.

    But let’s not concentrate taller buildings in just cluster of ghetto type apartment buildings in LIHUE, where it would be sure to foment drugs and crime; but spread out anywhere on island where infrastructure like parking and sewage requirements would be met.

    Besides great healthy vista views could be discovered at higher housing levels…especially for retired seniors relaxing at home.

    Taller homes require a smaller footprint of the building taking up less ground space allowing increase of food gardens to proliferate on people’s lots and lessen the requirement for food to be sent here from South America(?).



  4. Sue January 15, 2019 11:12 am Reply

    “The people” have indicated that housing is a priority? All 144 of them?

    What a joke!

  5. LMat January 16, 2019 9:02 am Reply

    Lol. These commentors all probably don’t have to worry about housing. Or don’t have children who will most likely struggle even more than their parents did to find decent housing on the island they grew up on. I bet these commentors are all transplants, the very ones driving up market prices in humble residential neighborhoods like Kekaha where a beachfront, six bedroom house sells for over a million dollars. Pilau.

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