Friday, Dec. 02, 2022 |
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Sue Lee Loy
The county housing agency is awash with money, and the County Council wants to know how it’s being spent.
The council Government Operations, Relations, and Economic Development voted 7-0 Tuesday to send favorably to the council Resolution 442, requiring the Office of Housing and Community Development to create a “strategic roadmap for housing and homelessness” setting forward priorities for using an annual earmark from property tax revenue on luxury second homes.
The roadmap is due in September, with annual reports after that, under the measure sponsored by Hamakua Councilwoman Heather Kimball an Hilo Councilwoman Sue Lee Loy. The tax on residential tier two properties, where residential properties are subject to additional tax for each thousand dollar of property value over $2 million, is expected to bring in $5 million to $50 million over the five-year life of the earmark.
The council has also approved a bill setting a minimum $5 million annual appropriation for housing programs, aimed more at affordable housing rather than homelessness per se. Plus, state and federal housing programs are expected to being even more money down the pipeline.
“For me it kind of boils down to two things: our responsibility as a legislative body to have fiduciary responsibility over taxpayer funds and to make sure the uses of these funds are transparent,” Kimball said. “”I think all of us we need to have sense of what the metrics regarding the plans are.”
Lee Loy agreed.
“This is a program that’s supposed to be just five years and there is going to be a business decision that will be made by future councils,” Lee Loy said. “Are we achieving what this legislation intended to achieve. … We can use this as a backstop to ensure we are moving the needle in the areas of homelessness and housing.”
Housing officials told the council they favored the resolution and were on track to have a roadmap ready by September. The agency is hiring a consultant to get feedback from community providers and stakeholders and come up with a plan, they said.
“I want the community members to know and the council members to know that we do not take our responsibility administering these pots of money lightly,” Housing Administrator Susan Kunz said. “I think it’s important to all stay on the same page. … We’ve never seen this kind of money coming through the pipeline before.”
The homeless plan, according to the resolution, is to “develop a vision and actionable steps towards reducing homelessness in the County of Hawaii,” and should include “an analysis of data relevant to housing and homelessness in the community, a gathering of input from a range of stakeholders, an evaluation of the current state of homelessness, goals and outcome measures, funding priorities, strategies for leveraging existing resources, and research- based best practices in addressing homelessness.”
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