(BIVN) – A bill that gives affordable housing preferences to Hawaiʻi Island residents was made law on Monday.
Hawaiʻi County Mayor Mitch Roth signed Bill 72, passed by the Hawaiʻi County Council on November 1. The bill “amends key provisions of Hawaiʻi County’s Affordable Housing Policy (Hawaiʻi County Code Chapter 11) to enhance access to affordable housing for those who live and work on Hawaiʻi Island,” officials say. The bill was introduced by Council Chair Heather Kimball and Vice Chair Holeka Goro Inaba.
“Our local kids and their families are our number one priority,” said Mayor Mitch Roth in a news release. “Signing Bill 72 into law solidifies our County’s commitment to our people and ensures they will legally have preference in receiving housing under our County’s Affordable Housing Policy. We would like to thank the visionary efforts of Council Chair Kimball and Councilman Inaba for seeing this much-needed piece of legislation through from draft to signing. Our County is better off today because of collective leadership grounded in the prosperity of future generations.”
“The passage of this ordinance signifies the County’s commitment to addressing the affordable housing crisis and ensuring that its residents have the opportunity to secure suitable housing. These amendments seek to create a more inclusive and flexible framework to meet the diverse needs of Hawai’i County residents seeking affordable housing options,” said Council Chair Kimball.
“I am excited to see Bill 72 come to life. The production of affordable housing is a necessity; however, we need to ensure that our own residents, workers, and keiki are being prioritized for these units. Bill 72 does this and gives hope to the many individuals and families who apply for housing where applications are received and evaluated by the County,” added Vice Chair Inaba.
From the Hawaiʻi County news release:
First, it revises the definition of an “eligible buyer” to mean a person who meets eligibility requirements, including income limitations, as established by the chapter or by rule. This change effectively broadens the eligibility criteria, potentially allowing more residents to qualify for affordable housing.
Second, the bill adds language defining three types of qualified applicants for affordable housing: a “qualified resident,” a “qualified returning student,” and a “qualified worker.”
These new definitions aim to provide a more comprehensive framework for determining eligibility based on residency and employment within the County.
The third amendment to Chapter 11 establishes preference criteria for affordable housing applicants. It outlines specific applicant preferences based on the three new definitions listed above. The housing administrator is given the authority to set the order of preferences and the selection process for applicants for any given County-managed affordable housing project.
“When we are investing and using public funds on affordable housing projects, we want to make sure that we can give Hawaiʻi residents preference for housing when possible. This law creates the mechanism to do just that for projects overseen by the Office of Housing and Community Development,” commented Housing Administrator Susan Kunz. “The Office thanks the County Council for its work to create this law benefitting Hawaiʻi Island residents.”