Every Sunday, home shoppers turn to the daily newspaper to find out about Hawaii’s home prices. Yikes. The colorful ads are offering homes for more than $1 million.
Josh Green is the latest Hawaii governor to battle Hawaii’s decades-old housing crisis. In 1989, then-Gov. John Waihee signed off on the Hawaii Functional Plan for Housing, meaning 34 years ago the state came up with the plans for Hawaii’s affordable housing.
Last month Green came up with new plans, which were formally revealed last week. They look really good and Green sounds serious.
“Our housing crisis will likely continue to be the most challenging issue we face in the coming years,” he warned.
Since the time of Waihee targeting our housing woes, children have grown up, gone to college, gotten a good job and found that they couldn’t afford to live in Hawaii.
“Each day without action means another family is forced to leave to the mainland,” said Green.
Waihee put up temporary villages to house homeless families. Green put the crisis closer to home by setting up an emergency shelter just feet away from his Washington Place official residence and just yards away from the state Health Department and Queen’s Hospital.
Green, trained as an emergency physician, launched his housing push by declaring housing to be a state emergency.
The urgency of Hawaii’s problems has now increased so much that declaring an emergency has become an often-relied-on tool to deal with them.
Green’s predecessor, Gov. David Ige, declared that Hawaii was suffering an emergency 120 times during his eight years in office.
Hurricanes, floods and landslides, plus COVID-19 and a series of volcanic eruptions, were all part of Ige’s to-do list and definitely qualified as state emergencies.
Green so far has declared five state emergencies regarding the homeless and one for housing. Green successfully campaigned on a promise to use the governor’s emergency powers to remove laws or other obstacles.
While it is too early to expect results, Green is already facing criticism from those who say the emergency powers give Green blanket control over all development in the state and discount the public’s ability to block objectionable housing.
Green expected criticism, according to a Honolulu Star-Advertiser report; at an earlier news appearance, Green showed off a T-shirt with “YIMBY”printed on it — meaning “Yes in My Backyard.”
And Green found support from Waihee, who in an interview told me if Green understands how to handle the issue, he can use it to his benefit.
“Public opposition against development is ‘tired’ (the usual concerns don’t have the same fan power at the moment like they used to); and 2) most people are now willing to give the Gov the benefit of doubt — next year may be different — really depends on progress and who the ultimate purchasers/renters are,” Waihee said.
Land planning in crowded Hawaii quickly becomes an issue that people take personally.
Green’s best intentions have to mesh with the values and expectations of those living around a proposed development. Saying a project is “affordable” only goes so far, especially in established neighborhoods.
This is just part of the reason why development is so tricky in Hawaii, and why Gov. Green needs to devote much of every day to making it work.
Richard Borreca writes on politics on Sundays. Reach him at email@example.com.