Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Elusive Affordable Housing Policy

My current work at the Hawaii Community Development Authority has me thinking a lot about affordable housing.

Halekauwila Place, an affordable rental project in Kakaʻako.
Among other things, the development guidance policy for the Kakaʻako Community Development District requires, “integration both vertically and horizontally of residents of varying incomes, ages, and family groups; and an increased supply of housing for residents of low- or moderate-income may be required as a condition of redevelopment in residential use.”

While 34 percent of units built in Kakaʻako since 1987 were built as reserved, workforce, or low income housing, there is still great demand in all income categories.  This problem is not new in Hawaii, and various policies, programs, and initiatives have been proposed by the various counties and the state to address the issue.  However, the solution is elusive.

I recently came across two articles that give some insight into the challenge of creating effective affordable housing policies:

Cortright’s piece explores the rhetoric of the affordable housing debate.  The rhetoric has Balkanized stakeholders into unbending pluralities; however, there is little data to support any one side of the issue.  Bertolet’s piece is a creative illustration of the “more supply will solve the problem” philosophy, which challenges the “you can’t build your way out of the problem” philosophy.  Both lack solid data to support either conclusion, but both sound reasonable.   

Would a trusted, independent think-tank in Hawaii help?  It would collect, model, and interpret housing data; propose policies, tools, and programs; and get us closer to the objective we all can agree on: Housing choices for everyone in every income group.

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