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Ige aims funds at housing crisis

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    At Kewalo Basin Park a homeless camp forms a sharp contrast against the Waikiki skyline near the Ala Moana Park area.

Gov. David Ige is looking to inject about $140 million into programs that assist the homeless, clear growing homeless encampments from state lands, upgrade dilapidated public housing and step up construction of affordable housing in light of the state’s ongoing homeless and housing crises.

Hawaii has the highest rate of homelessness per capita of all states, with an estimated 7,620 people living on the streets and in shelters.

Meanwhile the state estimates that it will need about 28,000 new housing units in 2016 — with low-income residents making up two-thirds of that demand.

Ige highlighted his housing and homelessness initiatives during a news conference Monday to announce his proposed $13 billion budget for the 2017 fiscal year, which begins in July. The budget now goes to the Legislature for debate and final approval. While lawmakers can add and subtract funding, the governor has line-item veto powers and can choose not to release funding for projects.

Ige has included $75 million for the Rental Housing Revolving Fund, which provides low-interest loans or grants to owners or developers building affordable housing units, and $25 million for the Dwelling Unit Revolving Fund, which provides construction financing for affordable-housing projects.

Both funds are managed by the Hawaii Housing Finance &Development Corp.

The funding is expected to create 1,400 housing units.

Ige also included $25 million for upgrades to public housing and $6 million to expedite repairs on vacant units.

This is only a fraction of the $153 million that the Hawaii Public Housing Authority requested, according to budget documents. The agency has estimated that it needs about $690 million to address a repair backlog.

But Ige said Monday that he’s also included funds for hiring 64 more staff for the agency, which would allow employees to do many of the needed upgrades in-house.

Ige has also proposed boosting funding for his homeless services program by about $8.7 million.

This includes $3 million in increased funding for Housing First programs, which focus on getting homeless people into housing first and subsequently providing services for drug and alcohol dependence or mental health problems. Another $2 million has been inserted for homeless outreach services and $900,000 to operate a new shelter in Kakaako. Some $2 million has been added to a rapid-rehousing program, designed to quickly move the homeless out of shelters and into permanent housing.

The governor also hopes to hire five new staff members to assist with his homeless initiatives.

Ige’s budget also includes about $2.2 million to assist crews with clearing homeless people off state land.

“We are establishing the capacity to ensure public access to public spaces,” Ige said.

The funding would go toward staffing a maintenance unit that would help clear homeless camps, discard trash and store anything of value on behalf of the homeless. The state is also looking to enlist the help of sheriffs to assist with enforcement.

The Ige administration has been stepping up sweeps of homeless camps that have cropped up around Kakaako, Point Panic and Kewalo Basin as past sweeps of the area known as Kakaako makai have scattered the homeless into nearby areas.

Ige’s initiative to create a stored-property program mirrors city-led efforts in recent years that have attracted criticism from advocates for the homeless.

In September the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii and law firm Alston Hunt Floyd &Ing filed a class-action lawsuit against the city on behalf of homeless clients who say their personal property was destroyed by city officials. The lawsuit alleges that the homeless weren’t afforded due process in violation of the U.S. Constitution when crews confiscated their belongings.

Budget-in-Brief-FY-17-BIB.pdf by Honolulu Star-Advertiser


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  • I go to work, sweat and stress to earn a paycheck, and pay my taxes. Ige takes my money and gives it to drugged-up deadbeat bums looking for their next high, free food, and free housing.

    • The homeless problem isn’t about homes. It’s about people deliberately moving (or being sent here by relatives and community groups) to a place they cannot afford with the specific intent that they will freeload off Hawaii’s taxpayers. Yet none of our politicians will acknowledge that, or even TRY to repeal COFA, or try to reunite mainland transplants with family members on the mainland, or identify more affordable areas that the state can assist the homeless in moving to, to have a better shot at self-sufficiency. Clearly, our politicians don’t want to end homelessness. They want to use homelessness as an excuse to give forever-increasing amounts of public money to construction firms, public workers, so-called non-profits, etc. It’s all about reallocating public money to cronies and unions. This state is doomed.


    • Yes, work hard, work overtime, work a second job and get squeezed by taxes that never end.

      But skip school take drugs and end up on welfare and the government not only feeds you and hands you a check, they spend millions trying to make sure you have housing.

  • David Ige, how about putting your foot down and stop all new development of “luxury” condos? It is embarrassing to see all this development in the kakaako/ala moana area that is virtually unaffordable to most Honolulu residents.

    We voted Abercrombie out because he sold out to developers. We may have to vote Ige out in 2 years if he doesn’t do anything to help the people of Hawaii. Read my lips, no new luxury developments should be approved, we have enough already and don’t need any more. We do need more affordable housing for Honolulu residents, force the developers to build affordable housing instead of luxury condos.

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