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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, November 16, 2006

City properties can help housing problem

The city of Honolulu is on the right track with the announcement that 12 city-owned properties will be available to develop low-income or homeless transitional housing.

State and federal tax credits already provide incentives for developers to create such housing. Now, by providing land at little or no cost, the city addresses a major reason why this kind of desperately needed housing often faces hurdles in the planning and development process: pricey land costs on O'ahu.

City officials, through this creative use of the public-private partnership concept, have demonstrated leadership on the issue of affordable housing, and, if approved, their plan will help ensure that a project is viable for developers. This is a promising step. Now let's look at the bigger picture.

The details of the program are still being shaped in the council's Affordable Housing and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee. Any final plan must be flexible enough to help low-income families transitioning at different levels throughout the entire spectrum of the housing continuum from the homeless in shelters to low-income families in need of affordable housing.

Now that the city has identified 12 potential sites, housing should vary based on the different community needs. For example, the Wai'anae property on Halona Road, once an existing vacant group home, may be suited for transitional housing. In Kailua, the 75,000 square-foot space identified by the city may be better suited for more permanent affordable housing.

To be effective, the city's program should recognize that every step along the way, there's a need for some form of low-income housing. Helping those transition out of a homeless shelter is a priority. But people can be stuck in transition if permanent housing stock isn't replenished.