Statement at Honolulu City Council Meeting, January 31, 1989
Mr. Chairman, Members:
My name is Arlene Kim Ellis, President of the League of Women Voters of Honolulu.
On January 24, your Planning Committee approved the two developments for whose express benefit the GP amendments were made on January 19. They clearly indicated the direction of future things to come by approving an extensive list of Public Facility amendments to provide infrastructure for a gargantuan third project currently being rejected. It was clear from the Committee discussion that you are already prepared to make further GP amendments to take care of this and additional projects in the 1989 review package. What happens in 1990? This is planning?
This abandonment of the planning policies and procedures you so strongly supported only a year ago is said to be justified by the need to provide affordable housing in what is recognized by all of us as a critical need. We would like to ask a few basic questions:
We do not believe it is necessary to abandon planning to get housing built. That is what we did 15 years ago and it didn't provide affordable housing then. We don't believe it will now. We hope that even at this late date you will give more thought to the implications of what you are doing before it is too late and irretrievable damage is done.
- How do you define "affordable?" The proposed Central Oahu projects promise that about half the homes will be within the reach of families with incomes below 140% of the median, which would be roughly $50,000. Are these the families that need housing the most? What about the 35-40% of the island families with incomes below 80% of the median-about $28,000 and the 50% below the median income of $36,000?
- What happened to the many hundreds of homes developers promised to build in the low-to-moderate income range in connection with the many projects already approved? Do we have any assurance that these will ever actually be built?
- How many of the 5,500 homes in the Central Oahu proposals you are ready to approve today will actually be sold at prices which below-median-income families can afford -- $75,000, $80,000, $100,000? or to rent at $500 to $700?
- What about the 8,000 unbuilt homes already DP approved in Central Oahu and the 31,000 in the Ewa pipeline? How many of these will be available to families at median income or less? What can be done to increase this component of the total and indeed to get them built at all?
- Can we really hope to build large quantities--and we mean tens of thousands-- of what we define as affordable homes for the lower 50% income groups by extracting a nominal percentage for such families from Central Oahu developers aiming essentially at the upper 30% income market? Or isn't the approach the State has adopted in Ewa more likely to work, whereby thousands of acres are bought by Public Agencies, taken out of the speculative cycle, and released at cost only to those who contract to provide significant proportions of housing at price and rent levels to meet the needs of such families?
- Will opening up Central Oahu to two or three large projects really stimulate competition with Ewa, as has been claimed? Aren't the same developers building in both areas? Why aren't the ten or twelve projects already approved in Central Oahu competing with each other? Why are some of them not moving ahead at all?