Hawaii's Ten-Year Affordable Housing Plan

Pohakala at Mehana

The Problem:

Hawaii will need 64,700 new housing units to meet demand by 2025, with 70 percent of those units priced for households making less than 80 percent of the area median income (AMI), according to the Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism’s study in 2015

The Goal:

Build at least 22,500 affordable rental housing units by 2026, as established by Act 127 in June 2016

The definition of “affordable” varies, yet a generally-accepted guideline is that rent, including utilities, should not exceed more than 30% of gross monthly household income. The following is the breakdown of Hawaii’s targeted number of “affordable” units for each area median income (AMI) bracket: 

Area Median Income - Number Units to be Developed by 2026

  • 30% or less - 5,400
  • 30% to 50% - 4,350
  • 50% to 60% - 2,209
  • 60% to 80% - 3,289
  • 80% to 100% - 2,884
  • 100% to 120% - 1,870
  • 120% to 140%* - 2,500

*140% Area Median Income (AMI) on Oahu in 2018 is $114,380 for a family of one, $130,620 for a family of two, and $163,240 for a family of four, according to Hawaii Housing and Finance Development Corporation (HHFDC).

The Plan:

A Special Action Team on Affordable Rental Housing published a plan in June 2018, the Affordable Rental Housing Report and Ten-Year Plan, giving policy recommendations for the future:

  • Use Suitable and Available Lands. The plan mapped approximately 10,688 acres of state, county, and private lands that would be suitable to develop or redevelop housing for low- and moderate-income families. 40% of the lands were on Oahu, 22% on Maui, 30% on Hawai‘i Island, and 8% on Kaua‘i. 
  • Preserve the Environment. Development will not occur in many areas of the islands in order to ensure Hawaii’s natural beauty remains.
  • Transit-Oriented Development (TOD). Expect new mixed-use development along the 20-mile Honolulu rail line. Much of this land is currently underutilized and owned by the state or county. Development plans include more housing options for low-income families, seniors, and single professionals, walker- and biker- friendly paths, green spaces, commercial centers, community services, job opportunities, and more – creating convenient work-live communities at the rail stops. Neighborhood TOD plans have been developed for the following areas: East Kapolei, Waipahu, ‘Aiea-Pearl City, Halawa/Aloha Stadium, Airport Area, Kalihi, Downtown, Kaka‘ako, and Ala Moana.
  • Mixed-Income Development. As witnessed in the transforming Kaka‘ako neighborhood, affordable housing development in Hawai‘i has been typically financed and constructed by private companies and allocates housing units for a variety of incomes. For example, 690 Pohukaina sold units for households making 60% AMI and 140% AMI. Mixed-income development seeks to ensure a positive quality of life for all Hawaii residents and specifically has a goal of supporting “special needs groups including persons with disabilities, frail elderly and the chronically homeless.”
  • Land Use and Zoning Regulations. The plan seeks to streamline and expediate regulatory burdens to spur affordable housing development. It recommends re-examining and eliminating duplication of land use and zoning regulations along with further coordination between various state and county agencies involved in the processes.
  • Find Funding. The plan recommends a few methods to fund affordable housing, including private-public partnerships, public financing programs, legislative funding for a Rental Housing Revolving Fund (RHRF) and a Dwelling Unit Rental Fund (DURF), and tax exemptions for certain affordable housing programs.

The Progress:

From December 2014 to June 2018, the state had built 5,300 new homes, including 2,000 affordable homes. According to the Hawaii Housing Finance & Development Corporation, 433 affordable units were under construction in June 2018, and 5,946 units were in the pipeline/pending phase, of which 5,235 were affordable.

Governor Ige said, “We now have the opportunity to really increase the supply of units and generate the types of affordable and workforce housing that Hawai‘i needs. I challenge the community, developers, the construction industry and the banks to all come together and build the housing units that we need.”

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