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Friday, July 25, 2014         

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City's Housing Office under construction

By Vicki Viotti

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Oahu's homelessness crisis, under previous administrations, had been the focal point of a bitter city-state political spat, but now there seems to be at least the start of a partnership between Honolulu Hale and the state Capitol on this issue.

Voters in November ratified a change to the City Charter that created a new Office of Housing. The City Council is considering a resolution to establish it by July 1; Mayor Peter Carlisle is now interviewing candidates for the housing director's job, said Sam Moku, director of the city Department of Community Services.

According to the resolution, the new office will focus on coordinating the development of affordable housing. That's considered central to getting a permanent handle on the problem, because without more affordable rentals, there's no place for those in shelters to move.

But the day-to-day administrative duties of managing the shelter needs of Honolulu's poor, both the emergency shelters and longer-term housing, will rest with the department, city Managing Director Douglas Chin told the Council Budget Committee.

City, state and community leaders are looking for some existing apartment space in the urban core to provide a more stable home for some individuals and families. About $2.5 million from the city's affordable housing will be made available for acquiring and renovating units.

In his first State of the City address, Carlisle also announced plans for a new informational website on homelessness to answer common questions and provide referrals to services. A launch date has not been scheduled.

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