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Monday, July 31, 2023
July 31, 2023 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 6:30 PM :: 2316 Views

Housing Emergency Designed to Fail

The Jones Act Paradox: Why is a Law that is Deemed “Essential” So Frequently Waived?

Hawaii isn't running out of land

Emergency Order: “Success is far from guaranteed”

B: … Some skeptics point to conspiracies about empty homes or foreign buyers as explanations for the state’s current acute affordability crisis, but researchers at the University of Hawaii recently concluded that the true culprit is Hawaii’s unusually onerous land-use regulations. Permits in Hawaii take three times as long to secure as the national average, raising prices by as much as $325,000.

(WRONG WRONG WRONG.  Permitting raises the COST OF CONSTRUCTION by $325K.  ‘PRICES’ are set by supply and demand.  What part of ‘comps’ do we not understand?) 

The defining feature of planning in Hawaii is the central role played by the state government. Unlike in most US states, where zoning and permitting are largely local affairs, building housing in Hawaii entails securing the approval of a dizzying array of agencies at various levels of government. Worse yet, these reviews are typically discretionary, meaning that agencies can — and often do — kill otherwise compliant projects under pressure from NIMBY opposition….

The governor’s emergency order aims to change all of that… (but just for a while, then return to the status quo ante after the usual insiders get their approvals.) …

success is far from guaranteed. (Understatement of year!)  Many elements of the emergency order failed in previous legislative sessions, and with the order expiring in a year, it will be on the Hawaii legislature to make liberalizing reforms permanent. The Sierra Club of Hawaii — whose director is a member of the housing working group — has questioned the order, and traditional opponents of new development are already mobilizing.

This is hardly the only fight over housing policy underway in the Aloha State. Over in the Hawaii legislature, legislators have introduced dueling bills to either strengthen or weaken Section 201H-38, a 2006 law that similarly aimed to streamline housing permitting.

But if successful, the order could set out a new model for how governors respond to a housing crisis that is rapidly going national….

(REALITY: Its pre-planned failure will be used to undermine these national efforts.)

Precisely as Explained: Housing Emergency Designed to Fail

read … YIMBY

Decades-Long History of ‘Stuck’ Government Housing Projects

SA: … It remains to be seen to what degree the governor’s emergency rules, which are intended to be in place for one year, can speed up state and county affordable-housing projects that sometimes have been slow to move ahead .…

… a 550-home project called Lima Ola on Kauai, dates back to 2010 when Kauai County bought 75 acres of agricultural land and has yet to deliver any homes.

Another project highlighted by the governor was a planned 271-unit tower called Hale Moiliili by the state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands on the site of a former bowling alley in urban Honolulu that the agency acquired in 1995 and spent about a decade contemplating for residential use….

Two other local government affordable-housing projects were highlighted by Green as benefiting immediately from the emergency rules, which include permission for counties to hire private plan reviewers to process building permits more expediently.

One of the two involves redevelopment of the state-owned Mayor Wright Homes public housing community in Kalihi. The other one is a two-tower project called 690 Pohukaina on state land in Kakaako….

Both of these projects have been plagued by scuttled development agreements with private partners in recent years.

In 2014, the Hawaii Public Housing Authority tentatively picked a team led by Hunt Development Corp. to turn the deteriorating Mayor Wright low-rise complex into a new community…However, HPHA in 2020 terminated its deal with the Hunt group….

The history of trouble with 690 Pohukaina included an attempt by then-Gov. Neil Abercrombie to make it the tallest building in the state, a push by the state Department of Education to have a vertical public school in the building, and denied funding requests by the Legislature….

(IQ Test: Do you believe any of this will change?)

read … Hawaii housing emergency order to ‘unstick’ local government projects

DHHL Socks Low Income Homesteaders With $2,000 Monthly Water Bill

CB: … DHHL hopes to use some of the $600 million appropriated for homelands last year to improve infrastructure, including water access….

The water company charges a monthly rate over six times Hawaii County’s rate, which starts at $1.25 per 1,000 gallons. Kohala Ranch charged $8.58 per 1,000 gallons last month, said Bill Moore, the company’s vice president, but the rate varies based on service-related costs.

An average customer in Hawaii pays about $171.32 for water for a two-month period, the typical billing cycle, according to the Hawaii Department of Water Supply. Many Kailapa residents are paying over $300 per cycle. 

Kohala Ranch Water Co.’s rates are regulated by the state’s Public Utilities Commission, and they reflect the actual costs of providing water to customers, according to Moore and DHHL.

But the costs are driven up by the need to pump the water and other infrastructure-related expenses….

DHHL has repeatedly sought to secure water from the county for the Kailapa lessees, but the system doesn’t reach the area. Likeke Scheuer estimates that it would cost “many millions of dollars,” to extend the county’s water lines to the homestead….

About 35 miles south of Kailapa, residents of Lai Opua Village 4, which completed its first phase of development in 2021, started receiving high monthly water bills shortly after moving in, albeit for a different reason than the Kawaihae homesteaders.

The village, which is part of a larger master-planned community that spreads over 1,000 acres, is hooked up to the county’s water system so residents are charged the county rate for water. However, some of the renters said they were surprised to learn they’re responsible for paying to irrigate a large swath of land, or “common area,” that they might not need or want. Others feel the cost should fall under the purview of the community developer or DHHL….

At a DHHL meeting in May, West Hawaii Hawaiian Homes Commissioner Makai Freitas acknowledged that the department is “aware of the $2,000 monthly water bills,” referencing testimony regarding one hillside lot in particular, and is “trying to resolve this issue.”

(CLUE: $2,000 x 12 = $24,000)

Unlike many other DHHL projects in which beneficiaries receive 99-year leases at $1 per year, Village 4 tenants must rent their property for at least 15 years before being given the option to buy it….

Eligible tenants were required to earn between 30% and 60% of the area’s median income, and some units were restricted to those making no more than 30%, meaning a family of four had to bring in less than $24,990 to qualify. …

(CLUE: $24,999 - $24,000 = $999 per year left over after paying water bill.)

read … Why Some Hawaiian Homesteaders Pay 6 Times More Than County Users For Water

Money News: Makua Valley Lease Expires 2029

SA: … A key parcel the military uses in Makua belongs to the state, one of several state-owned parcels used by the Army, whose leases expire in 2029. As the deadline approaches, community leaders and military officials are preparing for what could be contentious negotiations. The military considers the Pacific its most important theater of operations amid tensions with China, and Hawaii is a key hub for those operations.

But military leaders are moving forward as the Red Hill water crisis and other environmental issues have brought renewed scrutiny to the military’s footprint in Hawaii and prompted some island residents to reassess their relationship with it. Now some who have been fighting over Makua say they believe that could give them leverage.

In 2022 then-U.S. Rep. Kai Kahele introduced the Leandra Wai Act, which would have compelled the Army to return Makua to the state. The legislation was named in honor of the late co-founder of Malama Makua, a Native Hawaiian community group that for decades has fought to protect and restore the valley’s unique environmental and cultural resources.

The Army hasn’t fired a shot in Makua since 2004, when a lawsuit by Earth­justice on Malama Makua’s behalf brought an end to live-fire training after wildfires burned brush and revealed ancient Native Hawaiian cultural sites within. But the Army and Marine Corps have continued to use it for helicopter crew training.

The bill ultimately didn’t pass, and Kahele, a one-term congressman who gave up his seat to return to flying for Hawaiian Airlines…

read … All About the Money

Honolulu Changed Bus Routes To Accommodate The Rail. But Ridership Hits New Low

CB: … the city’s Department of Transportation Services introduced several bus route changes in tandem with the opening, including six modifications and 12 new routes throughout neighborhoods including Kalihi, Pearl City and Waipahu.

The most significant change affected Route A, which previously served an average of roughly 5,000 daily riders. That line now ends at Pearlridge instead of Waipahu, and bypasses the Kalihi Transit Center and North King Street to run along the rail.

The goal with the changes is to let “Skyline kind of take over the segments that Route A used to represent before,” said Jon Nouchi, deputy director of the Department of Transportation Services.

But for residents like Pang the changes have altered daily routines for the sake of a rail line that, as Pang points out, “is empty.”

The truncated rail line has meant limited utility and thus, ridership. In the most recent week of full data, the Skyline saw its lowest ridership totals to date… 

HNN: 30 days of Skyline: Ridership may be lower, but confidence remains high

read … Honolulu Changed Bus Routes To Accommodate The Rail. But Many Passengers Say No Thanks

UH: Sen. Donna Mercado Kim is both misleading and erroneous

CB: … The July 10 Community Voices in Civil Beat by state Sen. Donna Mercado Kim is both misleading and erroneous in a number of areas.

I will limit my observations to four of these matters, although there are more that warrant a response….

read … Setting The Record Straight On UH Budget Priorities

Access to Hawaii public school campus assessments impeded

SA: … Periodic requests over the past year by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser to accompany Hawaii public school officials on “campus vulnerability assessments” have all been denied, and requests to view documents from the campus assessments already conducted remain at an impasse.

Since 2017, state Department of Education leaders have been gradually visiting the state’s public school campuses to look for vulnerabilities and devise next steps for the greatest possible safety and preparation in the event of an active shooter. So far, only 140 of the state’s 258 campuses have been formally assessed, but the DOE recently changed the voluntary program to mandatory and intends to have all campuses assessed by June….

The department in August declined, saying the media outlet must file a Uniform Information Practices Act request via the state Office of Information Practices.

The DOE’s response to the formal request has been that it can release only redacted versions of the vulnerability assessments, which leaves open the possibility that meaningful information could be hidden. In addition, the DOE said that for the 120 hours it would take for DOE employees to review the documents and redact them, the price would be $7,142.50, making them largely inaccessible to the general public..,..

SA: Hawaii public schools’ safety vulnerabilities outlined by DOE

read … Access to Hawaii public school campus assessments impeded

US Senate bill would make it easier for foreign workers to get to Hawaiian tuna fishing vessels

SFS: … If U.S. lawmakers have their way, foreign laborers would be able to fly directly to Hawaii to participate in the longline tuna industry instead of boarding vessels in American Samoa or Mexico.

Since 2004, the roughly 700 foreign laborers who work in Hawaii’s longline tuna fishery have existed in a legal loophole. While the workers are allowed to live and work on the longline vessels, they are ineligible for visas and are technically barred entry to the U.S. When the vessels come into port, the foreign workers are confined to the pier area.

This also means that these workers are unable to fly to Hawaii and board the vessels there. Instead, vessel operators must make the potentially dangerous journey to American Samoa or Mexico to pick up foreign laborers. Each trip can take weeks and cost operators as much as USD 10,000 to 15,000 (EUR 9,000 to 13,600), according to a 2019 report from the Georgetown Law Human Rights Institute….

(CLUE: Mexico is a great place to buy multi-kilo quantities.)

U.S. senators are asking U.S. Customs and Border Protection to consider creating a new permit that would allow these foreign workers to fly directly to Hawaii. Lawmakers on the Senate Appropriations Committee included the provision in the annual Homeland Security funding bill, which the committee passed 27 July….

read … US Senate bill would make it easier for foreign workers to get to Hawaiian tuna fishing vessels

Remembering Johnny Fraser on the anniversary of his disappearance

ILind: … Today is the 7th anniversary of the disappearance of 21-year old Jonathan Fraser. On July 30, 2016, Fraser disappeared suddenly without a trace.

Former Honolulu business owner Michael J. Miske Jr. faces several charges related to Fraser’s disappearance and murder, including murder in aid of racketeering, conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering, murder for hire conspiracy resulting in death, kidnapping using a facility of interstate commerce resulting in death, and conspiracy to commit kidnapping using a facility of interstate commerce.

Two of those charges have mandatory minimum sentences of life in prison if Miske is convicted, while two others call for a maximum life sentence….

read … Remembering Johnny Fraser on the anniversary of his disappearance

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