Monday, December 21, 2009 News Kauai News Residents grapple with affordable housing ‘realities’ News Kauai News Residents grapple with affordable housing ‘realities’

Immediatly I fired off a letter to the Garden Island

"When Coco called me up and asked my opinion on this issue, I pretty much burned her a new hole in her ear. There are a few things I want to clarify however. It seems that the article was perhaps unintentionally slanted in the direction of my saying that Habitat and Kalepa were unaffordable.

The problem lies in not knowing the difference between "affordable" housing, and Low income housing. Habitiat for Humanity is a terrific organization. When Coco and I were discussing this issue, I specifically mentioned them as doing a great job, and that we needed a whole lot more of what they were doing on this island as part of the solution to this problem.

When Coco asked me what I thought a solution would be to this housing situation, I was very blunt. Large developers that want to build high end housing for the wealthy must build addordable and low income units for employees, or employee housing that would be affordable based on what they will be paying those future employees.

I mentioned that the first people to do this was Princeville Corporation but they were required to do it as a condition of approval of their project. Many of the larger developments have also been required to do this as of late, but as I testified many times at the meetings they were still looking at "affordable" units being at the 50, and 80 percent median income range which did nothing to address the problem.

I did praise one developer. and that would be the Ritz Carlton Kauai, whose development would be building not only affordable units, and employee housing, but also some low income units as well, and accepting HUD. I have praised them many times for the way they have tackled the housing units and held them up as an example for others.

Kalepa is a county project that is a HUD project. So those rentals will be doable, and Habitat is a charitable organization that helps to make housing truly affordable for many families that could otherwise not afford a home by using sweat equity.

Mahalo for letting me add onto my comments on the article
Anne Punohu
Kauai Fair Housing Law Coalition"

So, now lets get down to the real nitty gritty. I mentioned to Coco everything I did here, and a whole lot more. What I did not get a chance to tell her, was that a way that some people were addressing their own homeless issue, was to work overnight jobs and try to sleep during the day. They can park their cars at work and its a win win for everyone. However, with strict new laws against sleeping in their cars or even on the beach and possibly getting a ticket for it, this sort of complicates matters. Without any sleep, how can you do your job? Overnight jobs are extremely physical, since most involve heavy cleaning, or stocking shelves with heavy items or ioperating machinery, or performing guard duties which requires a lot of walking for a n entire shift.

I also told her that most of the people I met while I was working overnight jobs were on their second 8 hour job and had just come of a full day shift. These poeple some of them worked 5 and 6 days a week at full hours with overtime. It still did not put a dent in their finances much.

I also discussed the catch 22 of some social programs which can make it hard to save enough money for housing, and the possibility that in the future legislation may be written to put a time limit on how long poeple can ,live in low income units in State projects.

Here is the math. You are say a single mom, 2 kids. You have a job that pays minimum wage, and you work 8 hours, five days a weel. Your rent is set at 30 percent of your income, and you qualify for some foodstamps, medical and insurance for your car, childcare, ect. You don't have any money left however, and it is very hard to pay bills like gas, phone, electric, and extras like a phone, cable or internet. There is very little left over for essential items, clothing for the kids, even toilet paper. SO, you try to better yourself. You get a job that starts at a higher rate of pay, and in three months to six months you are now earning 12.00 to 13.00 an hour. You lose your foodstamps, insurance, and childcare. You must now pay a higher rate for childcare out of pocket, cover your insurance expenses and pay for your food with cash. Another issue is that now, your rent will now increase incrementally due to your having a higher rate of pay. SO, what you have gained by almost doubling your pay, will be eaten away by an increase in rent, gas, insurance and food costs. SO technically you are no better off than if you had one job and stayed on benefits. So, as you can see there is very little opportunity to save the thousands of dollars that would be needed for a downpayment on a house, even a "affordable" one.

However, the rumour mills are flying that an attempt to put a stopper on the amount of years someone can live in State Housing are more than likely going to come up for a debate at some point in the next year or so. If that is so, it will be a debated issue during campaigns I am sure. Most people see low income housing dwellers as lazy, and poeple that don't work, and are just "free loadning" in public housing for decades and not moving out and moving on so that others can get into the units.

hHis is ridiculous. The obvious reason why people cannot get ahead, is the rules and regulations of the system, and the fact that no one is building affordable low income housing that matches the pay scale here, and the rentals are far too high. Not only that, when we fought to change regulations last year at the State level, and make discrimination against a renter illegal just because a renter would be paying for his rental with a HUD voucher , it did not pass. that makes it even harder for poeple to move out of State low income housing.

The answer is to either build more state housing, and complete repairs, or rebuild aging state housing, and pass laws that will forbid discrimination agianst HUD voucher holder,s and build low income pay scale amenable affordable rentals and housing.

This can be accomplished by loosening the restrictions for developers whose purpose is to do just that. Developers that are willing to build the kind of housing that will keep workers on island should be given every type of ecxemption allowable. Those that wont should not be allowed to build. It is as simple as that. Housing discrimination based on HUD should not be allowed. And for a term of 5 years, a families maximum amount of rent paid in a state housing unit should be frozen, allowing any amount to be earned. A portion of money and earning are to be set aside each month for that family in a dedicated account, and at the end of five years, can be used towards the purchase of a home outright, and will be held by the State for the renter. After five years, the rent can be increased incrementally and work with the renter to help overcome any obstacles to finding a decent rental or home. Welfare laws should be reformed to allow 2 years of payments to continue, frozen while a family gets back on its feet agfter acheiving a raise and a better job and still be allowed foodstamps, since that is the single most expensive burden,

THere are ways to tackle this problem, but it will require will, determination and drive to get these problems solved.

Feel free top debate the issue here. You know the rules

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