Is the status quo enough? I don’t believe so; not when it comes to affordable rental housing.
As I go throughout my day, people share their personal stories with and me. Everyday I’m hearing from people who are afraid because they can’t afford to buy a home and their rent only continues to rise.
Kupuna tell me they are forced to choose between paying rent and buying medicine.
With tears in their eyes, moms tell me they are forced to choose between paying rent and buying fresh food for their children.
Returning kama‘aina students are telling me that their student loan burdens make paying rent a monthly struggle.
Clearly, these choices affect all of us with both short-term and long-term consequences.
According to the Hawaii Appleseed Center of Law and Economic Justice, teachers, nurses and firefighters, are all impacted by our affordable rental housing shortage.
The median home price in Hawaii is now $700,000. In part because of the high cost of home ownership in Hawai‘i, 43 percent of Hawai‘i residents rent and for those making less than $78,000 the need for affordable rentals is especially acute.
To make matters worse, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) considers over 81 percent of Hawai‘i residents making less than $48,950 per year as considered “cost-burdened” by housing. How can a family afford to save for a home when they can’t afford daily necessities?
I have a plan to reduce the affordable rental shortfall by 91 percent in seven years. By adding only another 2,170 units to what is already planned, we will increase affordable rental units by almost 50 percent. That’s powerful. At that point, we reach a tipping point and move from “status quo” to impactful change.
By allocating 25 percent of the Corporate Income Tax to the Rental Housing Trust Fund, we can afford to provide over 19,000 people throughout the state with stable, affordable housing. Businesses benefit from employees who have safe, affordable housing, so it makes sense to utilize the Corporate Income Tax.
It’s important to note, this is NOT a tax increase.
This is a matter of priorities for one of our state’s biggest community problems.
There is more good news. We can increase the number of families we help by utilizing state land and utilizing modern and safe modular construction, which keeps the costs of building down. It’s possible with the right combination of circumstances that we could actually eliminate the rental-housing shortfall for those making less than $78,000.
What makes this proposal all the more urgent is that if we maintain the status quo, our affordable rental housing shortage snowballs, leaving future generations to deal with a more extreme and more expensive problem.
It isn’t enough to go halfway, we must see this this plan through. We can solve this problem; all it takes is the courage and commitment. Future generations are depending on us to step up and solve our problems and the time is now.
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