Bringing housing to the forefront
Two City Council members say the city hasn't done enough to get affordable projects built
The City Council is considering a package of incentives for developers to build affordable housing that some members say has been largely ignored by the city.
A City Council committee will discuss the bills and resolutions today. The package's sponsors, Ann Kobayashi and Donovan Dela Cruz, call it "controversial" and innovative since the shortage of affordable housing hasn't been addressed in depth.
"I've always been concerned about the lack of affordable housing and rentals," Kobayashi said. "Because the city doesn't have a housing department, there hasn't been a strong push to help create more affordable housing. We haven't seen much done."
Mayor Mufi Hannemann described the proposals as political because Kobayashi has been rumored as a possible election opponent for the mayor next year.
With the appointment of an assistant to handle housing, "we can move ahead" on these issues, Hannemann said. Earlier this month, he announced the appointment of Raenette Gee, who had been an employee of the city's now-defunct Department of Housing, as executive assistant on housing. The job's responsibilities include coordinating the city's role in affordable housing management and development.
The city auditor is expected to release a final report on the city's management relating to affordable housing in a couple of weeks.
Among the findings, the report said there are no guidelines set up to spend a fund of taxpayer dollars dedicated to affordable housing and there is little oversight in unilateral agreements made with developers to build these units.
Last year, voters approved a City Charter amendment that would take half of 1 percent of real property tax revenues for an affordable housing fund. Kobayashi said there is nearly $4 million in that fund.
Hannemann said his administration is looking at using the money to upgrade some of the dozen affordable housing projects the city owns.
The affordable housing package is expected to address some of the auditor's findings. Some of the proposed bills and resolutions would:
» Create an ordinance for affordable housing agreements, replacing unilateral agreements, to make the process more transparent and so developers will know the needed investment amount up front.
» Waive building permit fees and defer sewer facility charges for developments that have at least 30 percent of units dedicated to affordable for low- and moderate-income residents.
» Encourage development near transit stations by reducing off-street parking requirements to one space per unit.
» Ensure that the affordable housing fund be used appropriately by creating a new housing grant program and community land trust.