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Reps. Awa and Garcia join developer Savio in unveiling affordable housing solutions : Maui Now

Senator Brenton Awa. PC: courtesy

Rep. Diamond Garcia, and Sen. Brenton Awa introduced affordable housing bills on Tuesday, aimed at tackling Hawaiʻi’s housing crisis.

The two Republican lawmakers held a press conference at the Hawaiʻi State Capitol Rotunda alongside island affordable housing developer, Peter Savio.

The press conference aimed to shed light on the severe housing challenges faced by Hawaiʻi residents, with housing costs soaring beyond the means of the majority, the lawmakers said. Recognizing housing as a fundamental need, Rep. Garcia (portions of Varona Village, ‘Ewa, and Kapolei, Fernandez Village) and Sen. Brenton Awa (Kāne‘ohe, Kahalu‘u thru Lā‘ie, Kahuku to Mokulē‘ia, Schofield Barracks, Kunia Camp) announced steps they are taking to address this critical issue.

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With more than 50 years of experience in the Hawaiʻi housing market, Savio spent much of his career focused on affordable housing and agriculture projects within the state. To date, he has converted more than 24,000 units to fee simple ownership, making the Savio Group the largest active lease-to-fee converter in the state, according to a joint news release.

The proposed bills, inspired by the Savio affordable housing programs, aim to establish a local housing market that is affordable for the average local buyer rather than outside investors.

Affordable housing developer, Peter Savio. PC: courtesy.

Rep. Garcia presented HB633, designed to create housing options that are tied to resident incomes through deed restrictions to maintain affordability for local buyers.

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“We cannot afford to build homes that remain beyond the reach of our residents. Without explicit affordability provisions in place, we will only perpetuate the problem. We must ensure that ‘affordable’ homes remain affordable for local families,” said Garcia. 

Sen. Awa followed with his own affordable housing plan with SB2999 and SB2624 which plan to ban certain foreign entities from owning, purchasing, or acquiring an interest in Hawai’i agricultural lands, as well as bill SB2617, that plans to ban foreign individuals and businesses from buying residential real estate in Hawai’i.

“Preventing foreigners from buying property here should have happened years ago. Soon, we will have the chance to finally make it a reality,” said Awa. 

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Savio’s affordable housing plan, which underpins the proposed bills, centers on principles he said are intended to keep homes in Hawaiʻi affordable. Highlights of his proposal include:

  • Addressing the market disparity: A study conducted on Maui revealed a stark contrast between the median cost of a home, ranging from $1.1 to $1.2 million, and the average cost based on the median local wage, approximately $450,000. This highlights an alarming $700,000-800,000 gap between the average cost of a home in Hawaiʻi and what the local buyer can actually afford to buy.
  • Tie the housing market to local wages: Align the housing market with the wages of local buyers rather than foreign investors, ensuring affordability for Hawaiʻi residents.
  • Bifurcate the housing market: Rather than regulating the current market, create a separate housing market for local residents, ensuring housing built with government funds or assistance maintains affordability through deed restrictions that will keep the housing in the same area median income range pricing at which it was initially offered at. This will build an inventory of housing that will always be affordable to the local wage earner, while keeping any wealth and home equity generated by the outside market. 
  • Modernize Existing Programs: Update and modernize existing affordable housing programs such as Hawaiian Homes, Section 8, and other inventory programs to address current circumstances and disparities.

Bill backers say their proposed legislation seeks to address the housing crisis with an urgency to collaborate on practical solutions.

Source: Maui News

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