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Editorial | Island Voices

A city housing office could help solve homelessness

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ACE (Faith Action for Community Equity) has been pressing for a city housing office to bring an intense focus in the city on affordable housing, which is the true solution to the growing affordable housing and homeless crisis we face.

The renewed focus on safe zones for the homeless is needed and necessary in this crisis, but we should never view them as the endpoint solution for homelessness.

A concerted, focused and integrated effort in both homelessness and affordable housing is desperately needed among all levels of government, private sector developers (for-profit and nonprofit), service providers and advocacy groups.

Leadership on Oahu should come from the city because so many pieces of the possible solutions for these issues lie with the city.

Unfortunately, for over a decade, Mayor Mufi Hannemann has taken the strong position that the city has no responsibility for affordable housing or homelessness. He has, therefore, been against the city actively playing the lead role for intense efforts to find solutions.

As he departs the city, he speaks of his collaborative skills as a problem solver. This changed attitude, if it is more than public relations management, gives hope for solutions.

In any case, his departure creates the real opportunity to create a City Office of Housing to play the lead role.

Resolution 10-38, introduced with the help and support of FACE and several City Council members, would do just that. Council member Donovan Dela Cruz, with support from Council members Ann Kobayashi, Romy Cachola and now Rod Tam, Ikaika Anderson, Todd Apo and Lee Donohue, appears to have the necessary votes to put the office of housing on the November ballot for a charter amendment.

Dela Cruz, with the help of other Council members, put money into next year’s budget to fund the office for a year. But the charter amendment is needed to make it permanent

Hannemann did sign the budget, which we hope means that his opposition is not as strong as it was. Also, since he insists that affordable housing and homelessness are state responsibilities, if elected governor, we expect him to make this a top priority.

He and his administration were the only public opponents of Resolution 10-38.

FACE continues to educate other Council members on the reasons for the resolution. Across the nation, it is the counties and cities that lead efforts to address affordable housing and homelessness. Much of the federal funding for these issues flows through these same entities.

Honolulu has a poor record of using these resources. It is the only city of its size in the nation without a housing office. Kauai, Maui and the Big Island, all far smaller than Oahu, each have a housing office.

Resolution 10-38 faces two more hearings at the City Council in August. Public support is needed to put the city housing office on the November ballot.

We expect that all the gubernatorial, mayoral and City Council candidates will support this resolution.


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