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Housing affordable for US. Change rules on who qualifies.

Updated: Jul 15

This essay is the third of a six-part series. The HousingNOW! Task Force has been reviewing the housing opinion survey distributed to Faith Action members in May 2021. This series is intended to equip members with more knowledge before the next legislative session.

Ninety-eight percent of Faith Action members agree housing subsidized by the state should be restricted to Hawaii residents who rent/own only the subsidized home provided them. This paper covers three qualifications or requirements for gaining a state subsidized housing unit: 1) you must be a Hawaii resident, 2) you must live in your subsidized unit, and 3) you must own no other real property.


When the state subsidizes housing, the built units shouldn’t go to people with somewhere else to live, or to those seeking investment property. The private sector market is for them.


Hawaii Residents

The current state rent supplement program is limited to Hawaii residents. This qualification is legal. We know Hawaii residency is easily established, due to several U.S. court decisions. But the resident does actually have to live here. Still, however easy it is to be a Hawaii resident, state subsidized housing should be reserved for residents only. Citizenship is not an issue, and members of Hawaii’s Compact of Free Association community, for example, are eligible for state subsidized housing once they qualify for state residency.


Live in Their Units

Each housing qualification Faith Action recommends is designed to limit state-subsidized homes to residents most in need. Low-priced units built for residents who need homes should go to those who will live there with their families. Faith Action’s Housing Now! group supports programs that enable lower income households to own their own home, stabilizing monthly housing costs.


Own No Other Property

Too much Hawaii housing belongs to absentee owners. Also, many Hawaii residents first look at the state’s skyrocketing home prices, then invest to buy, rent, and flip for profit. When the state builds the kind of residential communities Faith Action proposes, we want incoming residents to occupy the only real property they own. And all persons in the unit, not just the principal owner or renter, should be without outside property.


Affordability — Low Price, Flexible Income

The key to affordable housing is building units priced right for those most in need. Along with requiring residents to live in their units and own no other property, low-cost units should mean lower income buyers. Faith Action wishes to support “no-frills” projects: a) small, by U.S. standards, 600 square feet two-bedroom, one-bath units, b) utilitarian entry and common areas, c) no swimming pools. They will, however, have low maintenance fees, nearby recreation in common areas, convenient proximity to stores, laundry, medical facilities, restaurants; all generating income to support the project’s low-cost units.


Faith Action’s Housing Now! group believes that, based upon similar developments elsewhere in the world, the projects will attract residents most needing a home while sending elsewhere higher income earners uninterested in projects they must live in without owning other real property. Facing such barriers, your Housing Now! task force guess the state won’t need income limits on potential buyers or renters.


The next essay in this series will examine more closely what our task force means by “affordable housing.”


This essay was authored by Faith Action HousingNOW! member Galen Fox. If you are interested in being more involved with the HousingNOW! Task Force, please e-mail housing@faithactionhawaii.org.

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