Affordable housing bill hailed as ‘momentous step forward’

Measure provides $570M to develop 25,000 affordable units by 2030

The Maui News

Gov. David Ige signed into law Friday a bill to provide $570 million to generate more than 25,000 affordable housing units statewide by 2030.

An announcement of the bill signing from the state House of Representatives called the approval of House Bill 2748 “a momentous step forward in addressing Hawaii’s affordable rental housing crisis on all islands.”

House Housing Committee Chairman Tom Brower said: “This is an investment in the future that will allow our working families a chance to save money to buy a home of their own and will contribute to lawmakers’ efforts to end homelessness.”

According to the announcement, the measure supports development of affordable rental housing for a wide range of households, from low-income families to those earning up to 140 percent of an area’s median income.

The bill has four parts:

• It appropriates $200 million to the Rental Housing Trust Fund to build about 1,600 affordable rental homes for families at or below 80 percent of the median income.

The fund provides equity gap low-interest loans or grants to qualified owners and developers of affordable rental housing. Preference is given to projects that provide at least 5 percent of total units to people or families with incomes at or below 30 percent of median income. Preference also is given to projects that provide the most units to people or families with incomes at or below 80 percent of median income. At the end of fiscal year 2017, the fund had a balance of $156 million. The aim is to help low-income families and individuals, including homeless and special needs groups, obtain affordable rental housing.

• It expands the general excise tax exemption for construction of approximately 24,000 affordable rental units for families at or below 140 percent of an area’s median income, with at least 20 percent of the units available for households at or below 80 percent of median income. The exemption will increase from $7 million, which was the amount enacted in 2017, to $30 million per year, and it will be extended from the year 2022 to 2030. The projected value of the expanded general excise tax exemption amounts to $360 million over 12 years, according to the announcement.

• It appropriates $10 million into the Dwelling Unit Revolving Fund, which was established in 1970. The fund allows the issuance of $125 million in general obligation bonds for the Housing Development Program. Money may be used to acquire property for housing; to develop and build residential, commercial and industrial properties; and to provide interim and permanent loans to developers. The fund would increase by 10 percent to make available interim construction financing for affordable housing projects.

• It appropriates $50,000 to prepare an assessment of housing needs for people with low or no income, such as the disabled and functionally challenged populations. The appropriation commissions the Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corp. to determine the number of people with special needs in Hawaii, identify the supportive services they may require and inventory the providers of supportive services statewide.