HUD Devotes $21M To Hawaii Affordable Housing

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is devoting more than $21 million to support affordable housing for low-income Native Hawaiian families.

The funding will be distributed as a Native Hawaiian Housing Block Grant to the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands and may be used for everything from constructing new homes to buying existing homes for rehab, as well as various support services.

It can also be used to provide rental assistance to Native Hawaiians living both in Hawaii and in the continental U.S.

HUD officials say NHHBG funds throughout the last twenty years have created 750 affordable homes, supported community centers, and provided families with housing-related services like rent assistance and home repair training.

In line with this history, DHHL plans to use the latest grant for a wide range of activities. This includes financing individual home purchase and construction loans; subsidizing rents in elderly housing projects; financing the construction of affordable housing units; rehabbing an existing structure into transitional housing units; and identifying and possibly acquiring land for future affordable housing.

“The State of Hawaii has the highest median home prices in the nation, and too often our Native Hawaiian communities are among the most negatively affected by the prohibitively high cost of housing,” said Richard Monocchio, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Public and Indian Housing.

“The NHHBG program enables HUD to get federal funds directly to Native Hawaiian communities for affordable housing and long-term investments that will benefit generations to come.”

The average single-family Hawaiian home is currently more than $1 million.

To save for a standard 20% downpayment, it would take a family’s entire median income for a decade, or for buyers to earn almost 180% of the state’s median income.

“Despite lower sales volume, the median prices for O‘ahu properties haven’t changed much over the past year,” Honolulu Board of Realtors President Fran Villarmia-Kahawai said in a statement. “Lack of inventory continues to drive demand as more kamaaina strive to become homeowners.”

Governor Josh Green issued an emergency proclamation on housing intended to eliminate regulations and encourage the construction of lower-priced homes. But environmental activists and NIMBY groups are mounting opposition, and the proclamation is set to face lawsuits.

“For those who support deregulation and think land use is too heavily regulated in Hawaii, this is a significant victory,” Hawaiian Senator Stanley Chang (D), who chairs the Senate Housing Committee, said of the move.

But when asked whether it will actually result in lower-priced homes, Chang demurred.

“That’s the million-dollar question. And we’ll see,” he said.

Another challenge to housing appeared soon after HUD’s announcement. Wildfires ripped through Maui this week, killing at least 55 and destroying nearly 2,000 buildings. How the crisis will affect the state’s housing market moving forward is unclear.

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