HILO — Turns out the county’s affordable housing requirements can be pretty affordable for developers.
The County Council on Wednesday is set to approve payments from two developers who opted to make payments rather than constructing affordable housing near their developments as a condition of rezoning. The two resolutions sailed unanimously through the Finance Committee on March 13.
Resolution 519 accepts $23,600 from Wainani 42 LLC to satisfy the affordable housing requirement for a rezoning that allowed the construction of 50 units at its North Kona site off Kaiminani Drive. In all, it’s required to pay $94,400 if it wants to complete the development of 200 units at Wainani Estates, according to a 1998 resolution passed by the County Council sitting as the county Housing Agency.
Houses in the subdivision are listed for sale on real estate websites ranging from $559,000 to $929,000.
Resolution 522 accepts the remaining $50,000 from KW Kona Investors LLC, the second half of $100,000 it was required to pay to rezone and develop 50 hotel units in Kona Village.
The money satisfies the “basic housing requirement by providing or causing the provision of affordable housing units to meet the direct and indirect resort hotel employee housing demands generated by the resort development or by undertaking other related mitigation measures, such as employee training,” according to a 1987 ordinance passed by the County Council.
In 1987, the county calculated that eight affordable housing units would need to be built, at a cost of $12,500 each.
Times have changed, prices have increased, but the original agreement stands. The development agreements don’t contain a sunset date or a cost-of-living adjustment.
The money collected from affordable housing payments goes into the county’s housing revolving fund, Housing Administrator Neil Gyotoku told the council. He said there’s about $1 million in the account.
“It can be used for any housing program within a 25-mile radius,” Gyotoku said in response to questions from Kona Councilman Dru Kanuha and North Kona Councilwoman Karen Eoff. “It can be used to help other projects being developed or to improve existing housing or existing programs in that area.”
A 2014 study by the nonprofit Rural Community Assistance Corporation found approximately one-third of Hawaii’s 400,000 households are “cost burdened,” paying more than 30 percent of household income on housing costs.
“With the cost of living ranging from 30 percent above the national average to well over 60 percent, depending on family size, Hawaii’s affordable housing and homeless problems have reached crisis proportions,” the study says.
Affordable housing ultimately falls on county governments, the report noted.
“Most state programs are not designed to create developer incentives to build affordable homes necessary to meet the demands of this income group,” the report said. “Since counties are in the best position to control private development through zoning density, subdivision, building standards, and other requirements, affordable housing to meet the needs of moderate-income families is mostly initiated at this level.”
Messages left with the two developers weren’t returned by press time Monday.