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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, January 4, 2005

Report proposes split of housing agency

By Gordon Y.K. Pang
Advertiser Capitol Bureau

Splitting up the duties of the state Housing and Community Development Corp. of Hawai'i is one of the recommendations of a private-public task force asked to look at ways to speed up the development of affordable housing in the state.

Full report online

The complete report by the state Affordable Housing Task Force can be viewed at www.hcdch.hawaii.gov/scr135-final-rpt.pdf

Other suggestions in the report, submitted by Gov. Linda Lingle to the Legislature yesterday, include accelerating the land-use approval process, establishing a one-stop clearinghouse for potential affordable housing developers, making more government lands available for affordable housing and providing more incentives for landlords to develop and maintain affordable units.

The report's release was timely. A Senate task force is slated to begin its own look at affordable housing issues today with a 9 a.m. public hearing in Room 016 of the State Capitol.

The governor's task force was convened last summer at the request of a Senate resolution, which cited the need for the study because of the state's housing crunch in both the sales and rental sectors.

Lingle, flanked by members of her task force during a news conference yesterday, said affordable housing is not a new issue in the state. But it is an issue that can be tackled successfully at this time, she said, because of the "openness and collaboration" expressed by key players as well as the public's view that it is a priority.

"The difference this time is I think there really is a collective will to make some of the changes that we need to make," Lingle said, pointing out that agencies are now collaborating on affordable housing as never before. She believes developers are just as eager to confront the problem.

Senate Consumer Protection and Housing Chairman Ron Menor, D-17th (Mililani, Waipi'o), said the Senate's task force will consider carefully the recommendations of the governor's committee and will want the public's input on them during its hearings.

One proposal that Lingle acknowledged is sure to generate discussion involves splitting the affordable housing finance functions of the state away from the Housing and Community Development Corp. of Hawai'i, whose other major function is to manage the state's public housing stock.

The task force report notes that Hawai'i is one of only two states that have housing finance agencies that also manage public housing. It also notes that most housing finance agencies do not develop or sell housing. A state entity, the task force concluded, should therefore "be structured in such a way that it can focus on financing housing."

That could result in the establishment of a new housing finance agency, separating the public housing functions out into its own agency, creating a sub-agency within the existing HCDCH or "strengthening the HCDCH's current organizational structure," the report said.

The task force suggested placing a surcharge on the conveyance tax for investment purchases with the proceeds going toward an affordable housing fund as a means of developing financing for affordable housing. Another option, the task force said, is to establish a graduated conveyance tax scale based on the amount of sales prices.

With both her administration and lawmakers proclaiming affordable housing as a top issue during the upcoming legislative session, Lingle said she does not expect the heated debates that marked her recent attempts to push through legislation for education reform and public safety measures.

"This is something we're clearly on the same wavelength on, we both feel it's important, the public feels it's important," she said.

"What's different with affordable housing is it's not much a matter of philosophy," the governor said, adding that she likely would not veto legislation in the area "unless there's some new tax proposed."

Reach Gordon Y.K. Pang at gpang@honoluluadvertiser.com or at 525-8070.