LIHU‘E — Members of the Kaua‘i County Council will consider a resolution today that would implement a fast-track permitting process for workforce-housing development, a step that is hoped will help to address the housing crisis on the island.
Resolution No. 2021-29, introduced by Councilmember KipuKai Kuali‘i, would authorize county agencies to cut through red tape to streamline the review and permitting processes of housing projects in which at least 51% of the units built would be for low- or very-low-income families.
Kuali‘i, who chairs the council’s Housing and Inter-Governmental Relations Committee, expressed his expectation that the council will show full support. Kuali‘i said that it is important for the branches of Kaua‘i’s government to stand united on the issue. The resolution would resolve that the administration expedite the process for a period of five years.
“As chair of (the committee) and the introducer of this resolution, I will say it’s critically important that our mayor, administration and council support putting a process in place that gives any permit applications associated with qualified affordable-housing projects top priority when it comes to permit-processing,” Kuali‘i said in a written statement.
County Housing Agency Director Adam Roversi said this would prioritize qualified affordable-housing projects above all other applications.
“Fast-tracking of permits for affordable projects is just one tool for incentivizing or smoothing the way for these projects,” Roversi said. “In development, where ‘time is money,’ faster permit approval provides a direct benefit to affordable-housing developers.”
The 2019 Housing Planning Study found that some 4,281 new homes would be needed in Kaua‘i County by 2025, more than half of which will be needed to provide housing for low- and very-low-income families. Roversi said that given current trends, it is highly unlikely that the county could meet that goal.
The study also found that the median price of a single-family home in Kaua‘i county rose from $287,000 in 2001 to $699,500 in 2018, a rise of just over 143%. As of September 2021, the median price is $1.17 million.
Meanwhile, wages have not kept up. According to data from the U.S. Census, median household income on Kaua‘i stood at just over $83,000 as of 2019, up just shy of 30% from about $64,000 in 2011. The 2019 Housing Planning Study also found that, as of 2018, an hourly wage of $29.06 was required for a worker on Kaua‘i to afford a two-bedroom rental at a fair market rate.
The text of Resolution No. 2021-29 acknowledges the incongruity between rising housing prices and increases in wages, stating that “since Statehood, the median cost of a home in Hawai‘i has escalated more than two and a half times faster than Hawai‘i’s median income.”
“Of course, with the extreme shortage of affordable housing we’re currently facing, I’m confident we all agree that expediting the building of more affordable housing is indeed of the highest priority,” Kuali‘i said. “It is my hope and expectation that this resolution will pass unanimously.”
The County Council is expected to vote on Resolution No. 2021-29 at their meeting today. The meeting begins at 8:30 a.m. and can be viewed live online at kauai.gov/webcast-meetings.
Kaleb Lay, general-assignment reporter, can be reached at 647-0329 or firstname.lastname@example.org.