Federal funds could help ease Hawaii housing crisis

Gov. Josh Green on Thursday announced plans to apply for two federal grant initiatives to help with the housing crisis in Hawaii.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced an $85 million grant initiative called Pathways to Removing Obstacles, or PRO, which aims to solve restrictive zoning, land use, and other regulatory policies that delay the construction of homes.

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The grants will range from $1 million to $10 million for states and will prioritize those that are hoping to expand financing for affordable and energy-efficient housing while also promoting commercial-to-residential conversion opportunities.

The grant also will help eliminate several barriers to building housing, including those caused by inefficient procedures, gaps in available resources for development, deteriorating or inadequate infrastructure, and other challenges.

“The chronic shortage of affordable housing is the number one economic threat that Hawaii families face today,” Green said in a press release. “We applaud the Biden administration’s efforts to seek creative solutions to the affordability crisis that has become a major issue not just in Hawaii, but throughout the nation.”

The second grant is also available via the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, but is designed to directly combat homelessness.

Earlier this month, HUD Secretary Marica L. Fudge visited Hawaii and told Green that the state faces some of the biggest challenges in the nation when it comes to finding affordable housing.

She then mentioned the $3.1 billion homeless initiative grant to Green, which he announced the state will apply for.

“HUD is proud to highlight the efforts of communities who are committed to housing-forward policies and practices, and through PRO Housing, we hope to support them with funding as well,” Fudge said. “Today, we are acting to increase the supply of affordable housing, which is crucial to lowering housing costs.”

In addition to the two federal grants, Green also announced last week an emergency proclamation to address the housing crisis in Hawaii.

The proclamation waives a variety of rules and requirements for the development of new housing, ranging from environmental reviews to zoning conditions.

Applications will be reviewed and approved by a new Build Beyond Barriers Working Group, which will consist of both state and nonstate agencies.

The goal is for the state to build 50,000 new homes in its current pipeline over the next decade.