Senate committee passes bill to assist home buyers

HONOLULU — A state Senate committee has approved a bill that would provide up to $50,000 for down payments for first-time home buyers.

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Wednesday that the bill passed by the Senate Committee on Housing Tuesday is aimed at assisting Hawaii residents and enticing expatriates back to the islands.

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The bill addresses the departure of 13,537 people who left Hawaii between 2016 and 2017 and cites the high cost of living in the islands.

The $50,000 would be provided by the state as a dollar-for-dollar match with home buyers.

The bill originally was written to apply to anyone who graduated from a Hawaii high school, left the state to pursue a four-year undergraduate degree and now plans to live in a first home in Hawaii for a minimum of two years.

Those selling the homes before two years would be required to repay the state’s down payment at an annual 8% interest rate.

The bill was amended Tuesday to include Hawaii residents who do not own property and want to buy their first homes.

The state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism informed the housing committee that basing a government grant program on residency may be discriminatory.

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The state funding for the down payments would rely on taxes on real estate investment trusts. But that option fell into doubt Tuesday after Democratic state Sen. Stanley Chang, chairman of the housing committee, amended the bill to remove references to the trusts.

Democratic Gov. David Ige vetoed a bill in July that would have imposed the state’s corporate income tax on real estate investment trusts.

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