HONOLULU (KHON2) — Help is on the way for middle-income families struggling to find housing. Lawmakers want to incentivize more developers to build affordable rental housing for working families.

Affordable housing has been a constant challenge in Hawaii as real estate prices continue to soar. The state has created incentives for developers to build more affordable homes, typically for low-income families — those earning 60% or less than the area median income.

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House lawmakers introduced a bill that would inject $150 million into the revolving fund for rental housing. But this time, the goal is to provide affordable rentals to middle-income families.

“This is the first time we have targeted working families, recognizing that if we don’t help subsidize these units, they won’t be built,” said Rep. Nadine Nakamura, chair of the housing committee.

The objective is to provide rental housing to families earning between 61 and 100% of the territory’s median income.

“Let’s say a two-bedroom unit – they could, at the low end, maybe a little over $1,000, maybe $1,200 a month. And let’s say if they’re at 100% of the region’s median income, that might be closer to $2,000 a month,” Nakamura explained.

The $150 million will be used to provide long-term, low-interest loans to developers who want to build affordable projects. Nakamura said the plan is to have at least 750 units built. She added that it is essential to provide this support to families who have been neglected.

“It’s our squad. Many families in this category decide not to stay in Hawaii because they can’t really find affordable housing.

Rep. Nadine Nakamura, chair of the housing committee

The governor pointed out that the good thing with affordable rentals is that they stay occupied by residents, whereas affordable homes that sell don’t always stay that way.

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“The challenge with selling is that you know they are affordable the first time they are sold. Then the price starts to rise until the market can support it,” Governor David Ige said.