Tax on pricey homes eyed to fund affordable housing


POSTED: Thursday, January 14, 2010

Higher taxes on high-priced homes could be one way to fund more affordable-housing projects as lawmakers look at solutions for homelessness in an economy that is expected to add to the problem.

Rep. Rida Cabanilla, the House housing chairwoman, said she would propose a hike in the conveyance tax on homes priced more than $600,000, as one of the options for addressing homelessness.

“;I'm going to tax those expensive-priced homes,”; said Cabanilla (D, Waipahu-Ewa). “;That would be spent for the chronic homeless.”;

Cabanilla spoke yesterday after her committee held an information briefing at the Legislature to hear from homeless providers about the state's efforts in tackling the issue.

Russ Saito, the state comptroller and Gov. Linda Lingle's czar on the homelessness issue, said the state had made strides through the Next Step Shelter and other programs, but providers still face hurdles in trying to get people into programs and services.

“;Ultimately, the homeless have to be willing and able”; to seek help, Saito said. “;There is a portion of the population that is not willing.”;

Providers discussed a variety of solutions, including a national approach known as Housing First, in which shelter and housing is a priority followed by social services such as mental health counseling or drug and alcohol abuse treatment.

Saito noted that some cities have established campgrounds for homeless in an effort to remove them from public parks.

“;But everything comes with a cost,”; he added.

Cabanilla said legislative chairs have been given “;marching orders”; to not introduce any proposals for new programs or services without also finding a source of new funding.

Rep. John Mizuno questioned whether federal money from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program could be used, but Saito cautioned that those dollars come with specific conditions and requirements that they go to serving families with children.