Housing plan should be a non-starter
A proposal would exempt lower-cost rental developments from multiple regulations.
LAWMAKERS often pitch an idea just to see if it will fly, but one on affordable homes that House Democrats floated last week ought to be grounded quickly.
Presented as "very bold" by Rep. Maile Shimabukuro, chairwoman of the Housing Committee, the proposal to eliminate land-use, environmental and zoning laws for affordable rentals projects would be more aptly be described as rash and lacking due thought.
She can count on stiff opposition since the proposal would usurp the authority of a number of state and county agencies, remove public review and could produce undesirable structures in a jumble of helter-skelter shelters. The proposal doesn't even consider whether zoning regulations and land-use designations are at the heart of the problem, doesn't weigh if these issues, rather than market forces, are impeding construction of affordable rentals.
Rental and for-purchase units that middle- and low-income people can manage financially are in short supply and the process of getting government approvals for development is arduous. However, the proposal would allow for-profit companies to throw up tents and trailer parks on publicly owned lands with long-term leases priced at $1 a year. While that's the worst-case scenario, the possibility that this could happen should send House members back their corners.
Lawmakers might do better to allow responsible rental housing developers with reasonable plans to skip to the head of the permit line if that would help them to build faster. They also could push county governments to increase the now-minimal percentages of lower-priced units required to be included in projects -- even at resort and hotel complexes to house employees -- and to enforce those requirements.
Zoning and land-use rules were put in place to assure sensible growth that calculated available resources, such as water, infrastructure, such as sewers, and environmental issues. These significant considerations should not be nullified.
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