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August 2006

Editor's Message - Federal Income Tax Cuts (Pearl Johnson)
Millionaire Tax Breaks
Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (Aviva Aron-Dine & Joel Friedman)
Affordable Shelter (Jackie Parnell)
Global Warming
Mayor Wants Rail (Charles Carole & Pearl Johnson)
Light Rail Costs in Comparison to Population Size
Voter Service (Arlene Ellis)

Affordable Shelter

It was a good year in the Legislature for affordable shelter. The level of funding for projects has greatly increased and agencies and non-profit groups are scurrying to find land and get permits and approvals. Credits go to the chairs of the House and Senate Housing Committees, the Governor, and the Mayors of the neighbor island counties for their recognition of the problem and their willingness to address it. No credits to our Mayor who maintains that providing housing for low-income residents is strictly a state responsibility. Since when? Every other major city in the country is attempting to address the lack of affordable housing choices, both for purchase and for rent, in their communities. Why not Honolulu?

One good thing about the affordable housing crisis is that people are beginning to distinguish homelessness by choice from houselessness caused by eviction because apartments are being converted to condos or the rents have soared beyond affordability. Many of today's houseless are made up of working parents who simply cannot make enough money to pay rent on units that are available. They are not drunks. They don't do drugs. They just don't make enough money. And too many of the houseless are children. Locking the parks at night is NOT a solution.

We submitted testimony on behalf of the League in support of a number of bills during session and before the Honolulu Charter Commission for a proposed amendment (Proposal 91) that would set aside one-half percent of real property tax revenues for land and natural resources protection and one-half percent for affordable housing. If this passes, it will put Honolulu back in the business of providing affordable housing. It doesn't mean the city has to own the housing or manage it -- there are many very qualified private non-profit organizations who are eager to do this. It does mean that the city will be able to purchase the land they need to make it happen.

Our Affordable Shelter Committee meets once a month, on the first Monday at 11 am at the League office. Right now we are pondering what we should be doing besides working to support Proposal 91. One project is to get out our cameras and document the number of affordable housing units that will be displaced along the proposed rail transit routes through the city, particularly in Kalihi and Moilili. That will give us a basis for judging the adequacy of the Environmental Impact Statement's discussion of this issue. If you have other ideas, please join us.

Jackie Parnell, Chair
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