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  • Written by: Stewart Yerton (Civil Beat Senior Business Writer)

Lawmakers Agree On The Need To Address Hawaii’s Housing Crisis — But Not On How (Honolulu Civil Beat)

Sen. Stanley Chang, chairman of the Hawaii Senate Committee on Housing, is pushing plans based on successful housing models used in Singapore and Vienna.
Other proposals in the works include measures by Sen. Stanley Chang, chairman of the Senate Housing Committee. One of the Legislature’s most prominent housing advocates, Chang has long beat the drum for housing based on a model used in Singapore, where residents can enter long-term leases on government-owned, subsidized units priced lower than market rates.
In what seems an annual rite of spring, Chang’s “Aloha Homes” bill setting up a Singapore-style housing program in Hawaii has passed out of the Senate and its first hurdle in the House, but still needs to pass one more House committee.
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Chang more recently has been touting another model: government-supported rental housing that’s available to anyone, regardless of income — similar to public schools. He calls it “social housing.”
To that end, Chang sponsored a measure to create new class of business entity called “limited-profit housing associations”
These associations would provide an alternative, Chang says, to the most commonly used system in which low-income housing developers use taxpayer money to develop rental housing owned by developers, with the potential to eventually reap large windfalls — and no requirement that the owners reinvest profits to develop more affordable housing. That’s a bad deal for taxpayers, Chang says.
The limited-profit housing associations could develop housing and even generate profits, but their primary purpose would be to provide long-term housing at below market rates, Chang said. Company assets, including equity, would have to be reinvested into housing.
Chang recently led a delegation to Vienna where Chang says such associations are used to provide subsidized rental housing to “over 60% of all city residents in attractive communities with impressive amenities.”
Chang also introduced bills providing funding to refurbish existing state-owned affordable housing units, encourage Hawaii banks to lend money to develop affordable housing and create a pilot to extend to 99 years from 65 years the time the state can lease property to private people for housing.
A longer lease would encourage younger people to buy leasehold condominiums without fear of having to leave once they grow old, Chang said.
“It gives buyers security that they won’t have to leave before they die,” he said.
 


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