Faith Action for Community Equity (Faith Action) uses a uniquely democratic process to select the issues it will act upon. When an organization joins Faith Action, they agree to engage their members in a Listening Process that deepens relationships and uncovers their hopes, talents, and concerns. Unit-specific concerns are addressed by the individual unit members. Community issues are worked on throughout the year by Faith Action's members who are directly affected by the issues raised. At the beginning of each year, Faith Action gathers its members to identify the top local and statewide organizational priorities that will be addressed based on these Listening Process reports. We then establish committees represented by each of our member units to work on those issues. The issue committees conduct research and develop an action strategy that normally involves holding decision-makers accountable.
Faith Action members continue to conduct their Listening Processes and have identified our issues and priorities for 2019-20: Affordable Housing and Homelessness, Long Term Care, and Economic Justice. .
AFFORDABLE HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS
The lack of affordable housing continues to be one of the most critical issues for Hawaii's residents. A common refrain in almost every one-on-one meeting is the fear that our children will have to choose between living their life in Hawaii or moving elsewhere. We are experiencing a serious housing crisis. Faith Action sees this crisis as requiring a response from people of faith. Our increasing population and income disparities paired with an increased cost of living, offshore purchases and skyrocketing land values, and a dramatic decrease in the number of rental properties collectively contribute to forcing people out of the housing market and into overcrowded living situations and homelessness.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has determined that the area median income for Honolulu County is $96,000 for 2018. The area median income for a family of four making 100 percent in 2018 is $116,600. Eighty percent (80%) of the AMI (Area Median Income) for a family of four is $93,280. Clearly, this is not “affordable” for most families.
During the 2018 Legislative Session, Faith Action for Community Equity Housing Now! Coalition’s persistent mobilization played an active role in the passage of HB 2748, otherwise known as the “Bob Nakata bill,” named after the Reverend Bob Nakata, former Co-Chair of the committee. This bill appropriated $200 million to the State Rental Housing Revolving Fund.
Also, in early 2018, a group that included Faith Action for Community Equity and some other policy and housing organizations presented a position paper to City Council member Kymberly Pine that eventually led to the passage of Bill 58. This bill included abolishing the option of in lieu fees for developers. Many in the affordable housing industry felt that payment of in lieu fees provided a loophole for developers to take the easy way of paying a fee instead of developing affordable housing as required when developing luxury housing.
This year, Faith Action members provided written and oral testimony on HB 1312 which passed the House and Senate, allocating another $50 million to the Rental Housing Revolving Fund.
Faith Action continues to support housing projects that provide affordable housing at 30 - 80% AMI (Area Median Income) as well as mixed-income housing construction.
Faith Action is convening a Housing Summit on Oahu on September 21, 2019. The vision for the event is guided by the state’s Affordable Housing Rental Report and ten-year plan, with the goal of building 18,000 affordable housing units on Oahu by 2025.
Our Organizing the Homeless project launched early this year. This initiative develops homegrown leaders within the homeless community through training and mentorship to advocate for themselves and negotiate with lawmakers for the resources and affordable housing they need.
As part of our Organizing the Homeless project, 300 current and formerly homeless constituents from all over the island are being listened to and provided with an opportunity to share their “stories” and concerns. Constituents will participate in a Leadership Training later this year when they will learn about public policy, the decision-making process, and how organized “people power” can produce accountability. An action strategy will be developed by participants. Homeless leaders will later be mentored and trained by these veteran leaders to be able to engage and negotiate with public officials.
Our HousingNow! Committee meets on the 1st and 3rd Tuesdays of each month from 5:00 – 6:30 pm. Members work on legislative priorities, brainstorm new policies and agenda, conduct research, and plan for actions and events. If you would like to be involved in this committee, please contact Keith Webster at or Catherine Graham at , Co-Chairs.
Faith Action's Long-Term Care Task Force worked closely with Caring Across Generations and celebrated a landmark victory when the Kupuna Caregivers Program legislation was signed by Governor Ige into law in June 2017. A first of its kind in the nation, Hawaii made national news with the passage of Act 102, which established a fund to provide caregivers with an allowance of $70 per day for care-giving services. This compensates family members working 30 hours per week or more who would otherwise have to give up jobs or work shorter hours to care for aging family members.
Because of our collective work, the Legislature initially appropriated $600,000 to fund the program in 2017. We continued to push for increased funding and helped to secure the appropriation of $1.2 million for the Kupuna Caregivers Program in 2018. During this year’s legislative session, we also submitted testimony for SB 1025 which passed the House and Senate and provides financial support for working caregivers 3 days at $210/week. The total funding appropriated was $1.5 million, an increase from $1.2 million last year.
With the growing need for senior care outpacing the number of caregivers in Hawaii and across the nation, Faith Action recognizes the need to once again train men and women to become Certified Nurse Assistants (CNA’s). With our experience and in-house capabilities, we are in a good position to help address this crisis of shortage of caregivers. We are currently securing a trainer to run a six-week program that will train an initial cohort of ten participants. We would then like to create a Home Care Cooperative.
The CNA Training Program will increase caregiver resources for all the residents of Oahu to access. These trained CNA’s will be able to provide quality care for residents in long-term care facilities, hospitals, home health care and hospice settings.
If you would like to be involved in this committee, please contact Dr. Clementina Ceria-Ulep, Assistant Dean of the U.H. Manoa School of Nursing and Dental Hygiene and Long-Term Care Committee Chair, at email@example.com.
During the Fall of 2018, the Faith Action Housing Now! Coalition focused its meetings on determining our legislative priorities. Several members heard that REITs (Real Estate Investment Trusts) were not paying their fair share of state taxes and wanted everyone to learn more, so they invited experts to present to our members. Members were shocked to find out that REITs now own real estate worth $18 billion. These REITs include marquee developments such as Ala Moana Center and Hilton Hawaiian Village who do not pay income tax here in Hawaii. REITs already receive a generous federal tax break and benefit from Hawaii’s low property tax rates. As a result, Faith Action members voted to support the push to hold REITs accountable for their share of state income tax in Hawaii as a way of bringing in revenue to the state.
It is estimated that imposing the 6.40% income tax on REITs operating here in Hawaii will increase state revenue by $30-60 million each year, funds which are crucially needed for developing affordable housing, infrastructure, and public education.
During this year’s legislative session, the Senate and House passed SB 301.
Faith Action was instrumental in raising the minimum wage to the current $10.10/hr and will be supporting the Raise Up campaign for the state to provide a living wage, which will likely involve an intensified organizing effort during next year’s legislative session.