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HB1988 HD1 would expand housing potential of counties

The following testimony was submitted by the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii for consideration by the House Committee on Finance on Feb. 28, 2024.
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Feb. 28, 2024, 12 p.m.
Hawaii State Capitol
Conference Room 308 and Videoconference

To: House Committee on Finance
      Rep. Kyle T. Yamashita, Chair
      Rep. Lisa Kitagawa, Vice-Chair

From: Grassroot Institute of Hawaii
           Ted Kefalas, Director of Strategic Campaigns

COMMENTS IN SUPPORT OF HB1988 HD1 — RELATING TO COUNTY HOUSING POWERS

Aloha Chair Yamashita, Vice-Chair Kitagawa and other members of the Committee,

The Grassroot Institute of Hawaii would like to offers its comments in support of HB1988 HD1, which would allow the counties to finance, develop, refinance and construct mixed-use housing and mixed-income projects — just as the Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corp. is allowed to do.

Grassroot doesn’t necessarily support the idea that government agencies should be in the business of financing, developing, refinancing and constructing mixed-use housing projects. But since the state is already doing this, giving the counties the flexibility to finance these types of developments as well could nevertheless increase housing supply in urban areas and areas near public transit.

More mixed-use neighborhoods also would increase businesses opportunities, help protect the environment and promote neighborhood walkability.

As the Grassroot Institute noted in its recent report “How to facilitate more homebuilding in Hawaii,” “if neighborhoods were more walkable, fewer people would use their cars,  which would mean less traffic, less air pollution and less wear and tear on city streets. Also, residents who give up on driving likely would save money on gas, repairs, insurance and other car-related expenses.”[1]

In addition, research shows that walkable neighborhoods “yield positive health outcomes. People lose weight, cardiovascular disease declines, and people report being happier.”[2]

These are all positive outcomes that could result from enactment of this bill — which also shows, by the way, that when it comes to trying to promote more homebuilding, the state even manages to get in its own way by barring the counties from engaging in mixed-use development.

The existing situation is a great example of why Hawaii must reform its laws related to housing growth for the public sector as well as the private sector.

Thank you for the opportunity to testify.

Ted Kefalas
Director of strategic campaigns
Grassroot Institute of Hawaii
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[1] Jonathan Helton, “How to facilitate more homebuilding in Hawaii,” Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, December 2023, pp. 15-16.
[2] Ibid.

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