We must fix problems with affordable housing
I HAVE always felt the manner in which our city runs affordable housing needs a kick in the okole. After watching a recent City Council meeting on homeless and affordable housing, while the Council members' questions were in the right direction, maybe they need to be aware of some factors in affordable housing programs and apartments already available. Why are we trying to build new affordable housing and wasting yet more money when the current affordable housing programs are in such disarray?
As mentioned in a March 28 Star-Bulletin article, about 300 vacant low-income units at dozens of affordable housing projects were unable to be turned over to rent because of backlogged repairs and maintenance problems. It could take six months to two years to get the apartments into livable condition.
Why does it take so long for these housing projects to make the necessary repairs? There is no excuse for taking so long to refurbish apartments. Hawaii needs a serious review and, more important, correction of these wasteful programs.
Part of the affordable housing problem is that the programs are funding residents who can afford to move out. There should be a clause in the rental agreements that once a family reaches a certain income threshold and can afford regular housing, they have to move out and let the less fortunate have a chance at affordable housing. Otherwise you end up with relatively well-off residents with luxury cars living in affordable housing while the homeless waste away.
Even the Section 8 program adds to the problem by paying higher rent support to those living in apartments that are too big for their current family size, but who refuse to move to smaller apartments with lower rents.
So here is what I think should be the game plan:
» Inventory the current number of affordable housing and apartments and see how many vacancies there are, and determine what is needed to get them repaired and available for renting. Then get it done. No more studies, no committees, no more dragging our feet.
» Review and revise rental contracts so that over-income residents are required to move out to allow the less fortunate to move in.
» Review and replace those in management who seem to be wallowing in place, and get a good program like Kukui Gardens' management and practices in place to keep the maximum number of apartments available for renting.
» Get support programs for the homeless, find out what is causing or contributing to their situation, and give them a chance to get back on their feet.
» Start a work program to clean beaches and state parks, whatever, like the programs President Roosevelt started to get people back to work during the Depression.
» There is far too much wasting of valuable resources with the current management of public housing. If it's a union matter, turn the screws on them -- they need to work!
» Come down to Kukui Gardens and see how it has worked successfully for more than 30 years.
It's time to make affordable housing work. Get rid of the fat cats, and let's fix this problem.
Norman Sullivan, a retired master sergeant in the U.S. Air Force, lives in Honolulu.