LIHU‘E — The county’s Housing Policy that was first enacted over a decade ago is seeing a set of revisions after it had not produced the affordable housing results the county originally intended.
In original policy from 2008 has a requirement that developers building 10 or more units offer a percentage as “workforce housing units,” for people who earn lower than market rate and above what would qualify for federal assistance.
Bill 2774, which was first introduced along with a presentation at the Jan. 29 Kaua‘i County Council meeting by Housing and Intergovernmental Relations Committee Chair KipuKai Kuali‘i and Council Chair Arryl Kaneshiro, in conjunction with Housing Director Adam Roversi, was on the books yesterday after being deferred in the spring.
The bill sets up to amend the Housing Policy by introducing 28 amendments, including exemptions on multi-family projects developed in the town cores of Lihu‘e, Koloa and Kalaheo special-planning areas as well as outside of the parcels zoned R-10 and up, mostly in Lihu‘e and Puhi or scattered “here and there,” Roversi said.
The council is taking the bill piece by piece.
Councilmember Luke Evslin proposed an amendment that would require all units must be at or under 120% of the area median income (AMI), down from 140%, a recommendation from discussion with Roversi. This creates a partial exemption, Kuali‘i said.
Figure wise, a for sale two-bedroom home at 120% of the county’s median income would sell for $533,600, whereas at 140% that would go for $631,300. Rent wise, for a two-bedroom with utilities would go for $2,750 a month at 120% of the AMI. A5 140%, that would be $3,208, according to Housing and Urban Development numbers, Roveri said.
Vice Chair Ross Kagawa, sharing his discussion with developers, noted that this drop from 140% to 120% will “basically produce nothing.”
“I’m not really supportive going down from 140% to 120%, but I know that we still have time to alter it if we deem necessary,” Kagawa said.
Chock said he didn’t mind supporting the direction this moves in, but there needs to be more work and figures attributed to amendments and actions made.
Kuali‘i said he would prefer the body passed something so that “the people could see” they were working on something.
Cowden shocked at how high the prices are, said she would vote in favor of the amendment, but, “with reservations.” She then suggested removing the AMI exemption, going back to the status quo, but withdrew this motion.
Kuali‘i shared figures: With 200 units, if the county requires 30% of the units to be workforce-priced, that would be 60 affordable units. That would break down to 18 at 80%, 24 at 100%, and 18 at 120% level.
“After the 60, there’s still an additional 140 units that could be higher,” Kuali‘i said.
With the new amendment, all 200 would be at 120% or lower.
“This 120% makes sure that it stays at that or lower, so you would have all 200 or you would have only 60 units at 120% or lower,” Kuali‘i said.
When first introduced, Kaneshiro noted this bill would allow for workforce housing in town cores and reduce urban sprawl. “You want to keep the developments where the infrastructure is, where the workforce is.”
The amendments look to further in-line the Housing Policy with the 2018 Kaua‘i County General Plan and a Workforce Housing Nexus and Financial Feasibility Analysis from 2019.
One note Cowden made was that this bill was created last fall and winter, and since then the global pandemic has disrupted the housing market even more, and maybe unrecognizable in the coming months.
The council received over 86 responses about the bill. Much of the discourse and testimonies were in response to a Letter to Editor from Bridgit Hammerquist in Sunday’s Garden Island Newspaper and on social media, which Roversi and councilmembers said was inaccurate and misrepresented the bill.
“No one is happy with the current version of this bill,” Chock said, including developers or affordable housing advocates. “You don’t want (the bill to be killed).”
The council will continue to discuss the bill and amendments throughout the rest of the summer. Kuali‘i hopes to have something passed in September.
Sabrina Bodon, government reporter, can be reached at 245-0441 or email@example.com.