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Green seeking federal help for housing crisis

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(The Center Square) – Hawaii Gov. Josh Green is turning to the federal government for help with the state’s housing crisis.

The state is applying for a new $85 million Biden Administration program, he said.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced the competitive Pathways to Removing Obstacles Housing grant program this week as a way to remove housing barriers for states, according to Green’s office.

The department will make grants of $1 million to $10 million available for states and local governments.

The program is meant to address “outdated” zoning, land use policies or regulations, inefficient procedures, gaps in available development resources, inadequate infrastructure, lack of neighborhood amenities, natural hazards, redevelopment, and the expiration of affordability requirements, among other things, according to HUD.

“The chronic shortage of affordable housing is the number one economic threat that Hawaii families face today,” Green said.

Housing has been a top concern for Hawaii lawmakers. The new housing program comes on the heels of Green’s emergency proclamation on housing last week, which temporarily halts some procurement and historic preservation regulations until Sept. 15 as part of an effort to increase housing units.

Hawaii has nearly 50,000 new housing units the governor said are expected to be built over the next decade under the emergency proclamation. Previously, Green cited a 2019 study that said the state needed 10,000 housing units a year to address housing shortfalls but currently only builds an average of 4,000 annually.

In addition to the new HUD program, Hawaii will also apply for a $3.1 billion nationwide HUD program addressing homelessness.

“HUD recognizes that communities have unique housing challenges, and that’s why the resources announced today are not one size fits all,” said HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge. “HUD is proud to highlight the efforts of communities who are committed to housing-forward policies and practices, and through PRO Housing, we hope to support them with funding as well.”

HUD also announced support for public housing authorities and multifamily housing owners participating in the Rental Assistance Demonstration program to help them repair and build affordable housing.

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