For immediate release: May 16, 2016
Press release by:
Councilmember Elle Cochran
Maui County Council
Cochran: Affordable housing fund should be for homes, not solar panels
WAILUKU, Hawaii – Councilmember Elle Cochran is bringing light to a $442,000 appropriation from the affordable housing fund that is actually earmarked for solar panels in pending legislation.
Cochran said the use of the money is inappropriate as affordable housing funds should be used to provide shelter, not electricity. The appropriation is included in the proposed fiscal year 2017 budget bill, which will be considered on first reading at the council meeting on Friday, May 20, at 9 a.m. in the Council Chamber.
The funding is slated to provide photovoltaic systems on 33 units for the Kaiaulu housing project in Kaanapali.
“As someone who cares deeply about the environment, I am not against installing solar panels on homes,” Cochran said. “But considering the extreme shortage of affordable housing we have, the county needs to be firm and focus every housing dollar within this particular fund to the construction of affordable dwelling units.
“People can’t live in solar panels. This is misuse of the funds. The developer should consider other sources of funding.”
Purposes and uses of the affordable housing fund are outlined in Maui County Code Chapter 3.35. The fund includes money paid to the county by developers in lieu of constructing affordable housing units, private donations and council appropriations, including a minimum of two percent of annual real property tax revenue as mandated by the County Charter.
The money from the affordable housing fund can be used to “significantly contribute to the creation of affordable housing units,” according to the County Code. If housing is not the immediate or direct outcome of an appropriation from the fund, the county must “provide an explanation on how the appropriation will result in housing.”
“The Kaiaulu project will proceed, with the solar panels or not,” Cochran said. “If the county grants this funding for the solar panels, it takes away housing for more families.”
Cochran noted she is also supporting the availability of housing for residents by cracking down on operators of illegal vacation rentals. The council on Friday will also consider Bill 43 (2016), relating to short-term rental homes, which includes a Cochran-supported provision making illegal operators ineligible to apply for a permit for five years if they do not come into compliance within the six month grace period that is also provided within the bill.
“These operators know they are breaking the law and they are taking advantage of the system and the understaffed county departments tasked with enforcement of the law,” Cochran said. “They continue to operate illegally because of the county’s lack of a strong enforcement tool. This amendment provides the ‘hammer’ that is needed.”
Cochran said she encourages testimony on both items, referencing Committee Report 16-84 for the fiscal year 2017 budget and Bill 43 for the short-term rental homes legislation. Testimony may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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