Gov. Green’s Affordable Housing Proclamation

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Mililani B Trask: Trustee Hawaiʻi Island

On July 17, 2023, Gov. Josh Green signed a historic Proclamation Relating to Housing. It acknowledged that there are currently 29,124 Hawaiians waiting on DHHL lists for “affordable” housing, where they have “languished for decades waiting for residential, agricultural or pastoral leases, and many have died while…waiting.”

The proclamation was notable because it also verified that “46% of those waiting pay more than 30% of their monthly income for housing and that 40% of the waitlist families live in overcrowded conditions.” The proclamation also suspended several state and county laws and regulations in an effort to expedite the construction of affordable housing statewide.

Among the laws suspended were laws that Hawaiians have fought so long for – including laws that protect Hawaiian traditional burial sites, many of which are located in sacred areas (wahi pana).

The suspension of these protections has caused alarm and concern in the community because of historical abuse of these areas and sites by developers in the past. It is for this reason that some communities are now tracking housing developments currently being processed at the county level statewide.

In some respects, the governor’s proclamation is a much needed and welcome political change for Hawaiʻi.

Affordable housing has not been a state priority for the last several administrations – a time during which homelessness has increased significantly on every island and the cost of housing in Hawaiʻi has exploded. Fast-tracking affordable housing for folks on our DHHL waitlists as well as for the general public is, and should be, a priority. Achieving this goal will require balancing interests to ensure that affordable housing is not accommodated at the cost of our precious and priceless sacred places and values.

In recent years, OHA has been challenged over its plans for the development of Kakaʻako. OHA’s plans include the creation of a dedicated revenue stream specifically for affordable housing. This is a no-brainer given the fact that we have more than 29,0000 families on lists for housing. Kakaʻako can be the location of the first Hawaiian cultural showcase in our state, it can also be the location of the OHA offices and other Hawaiian businesses, as well as a location for affordable housing.

Since the proclamation was issued, I have had many discussions with beneficiaries and others in the community including our county council members and a few legislators. Several are saying that the governor’s proclamation left out the two most important elements of affordable housing: MONEY to construct the housing and LAND for the homes. I agree. There will not be any affordable housing without the money for the homes and land.

As an OHA trustee I believe that the time has come for an inventory of the Ceded Land Trust assets, including lands available for affordable housing. The Ceded Land Trust belongs to the “public” and to “native Hawaiians.”

Future planning for our native community requires that we anticipate our peoples’ need for housing that must be constructed in areas where there are no DHHL lands.

A good example is Honolulu town where there is only a small area in Papakōlea set aside for Hawaiian Homelands. Despite this fact, there are thousands of beneficiaries waiting for a homestead parcel in Honolulu. More ceded lands are needed to facilitate the housing demands of our growing native population.

I believe OHA has a responsibility to proceed with Kakaʻako, to not only develop a showcase for culture and hub for business, but for the development of affordable housing for our people.

We go forward.

Mililani