Gov. David Ige’s housing claims questioned
Gov. David Ige says he’s created thousands of new affordable homes as part of his goal of building 10,000 units by 2020 to help address Hawaii’s housing crisis.
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Gov. David Ige says he’s created thousands of new affordable homes as part of his goal of building 10,000 units by 2020 to help address Hawaii’s housing crisis. Under his current tally, a total of 5,647 units have been completed during his term, of which 60 percent are affordable.
But a review of the governor’s housing figures requested by the Star-Advertiser shows that he’s including hundreds of pre-existing units that have undergone renovations; projects in Kakaako that broke ground under former Gov. Neil Abercrombie; and homes that have been built in the new Hoopili subdivision — a private development project that received its major state approval in 2012.
Ige acknowledged in a statement to the Star-
Advertiser that some of the housing projects stretch back to previous administrations and said that he’s been “reporting the facts” as cited in the Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corporation’s housing production reports. The reports list construction and renovation projects that were finished during his term.
“Addressing our housing shortage has been a community-wide effort,” said Ige. “I recognize that significant efforts were made by prior administrations and
I thank them for getting the ball rolling on many projects. My administration has seen these projects through to completion and initiated many more.”
But Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa, who is
challenging Ige in the Aug. 11 Democratic primary, says Ige’s housing claims are
deceptive, noting that his campaign website specifies that “Governor Ige has
created thousands of affordable homes.” And Abercrombie, who was ousted from office by Ige four years ago, said that Ige is unfairly taking credit for housing projects initiated by his administration.
“You know, I’ve been in this game for half a century. It’s not that I’m shocked,” said Abercrombie. “But I don’t have to take this kind of stuff from this guy. He has gotten a pass all the way through. This nice guy image he has out there seems like it excuses him from having to take responsibility for anything.
“Claiming this affordable housing on the backs of the effort of my administration shows a complete lack of leadership from my point of view,” he added.
More than 600 units
on Ige’s list of 5,647 completed units are actually renovations. For instance, Ige includes Riverside Apartments, a 74-unit apartment building in downtown Hilo that was built in 1973 as part of the housing that’s been completed under his term. The complex, which houses tenants who receive Section 8 subsidies, had fallen into disrepair and extensive renovations were begun by a private developer months before Ige was sworn into office on Dec. 1, 2014. Tenants of the building were temporarily relocated during renovations, which were completed in early 2015.
Jodi Leong, a spokeswoman for the governor, said that renovations are a “critical part of the effort to increase affordable rentals, as they are existing structures that may not have been up to code or previously habitable.”
Ige also includes 11 projects in Kakaako totaling 3,340 units. Construction on seven of those projects began in 2013 or 2014 under Abercrombie.
For instance, construction on the the 388-unit Symphony Honolulu condominium tower in Kakaako began in 2013. By June 2014, about three-quarters of the apartments had already been sold. The luxury building was completed in 2016.
Ige also includes 140 units that have been completed so far in the Hoopili housing project in east Kapolei. The project was supported by the Abercrombie administration as developers fought to gain approval from the state Land Use Commission to reclassify the land for
development. The project
finally broke ground in 2016.
Other projects, such as Kapolei Lofts, which includes 499 rental units, did begin and end construction under Ige. A groundbreaking ceremony for the project was held in January 2015 and the apartment complex began accepting its first tenants in September 2015.
The permitting and approval processes and construction of major development projects can stretch over years and across multiple administrations. But Hanabusa said Ige shouldn’t mislead voters by giving them the impression that he actually created the housing or that certain projects were initiated under him that weren’t.
“Most of these units were already being built before
David Ige was elected — some before he had even
announced his run for governor,” Hanabusa said in a statement. “They would have been completed no matter who was elected.”
She said the Ige campaign is “simply misleading voters to get votes.”
Ige said that in addition to the completed housing, another 6,900 units have entered the planning or construction phases.