Job+housing ideas for Hawaii

Job+housing Ideas

In Hawaii, we don’t only have a housing problem. We have a jobs-and-housing problem. It’s not enough to find people affordable housing. People need jobs so that they can afford their affordable housing.

Unfortunately, most of our public assistance programs address either job training or homelessness, but not both. The Hawaii Department of Labor and Industrial Relations has over 1500 job training programs from 42 “eligible training providers” (ETPs). The Hawaii Department of Human Services coordinates 22 agencies, 13 emergency shelters, and 32 traditional shelters across the state. We have rent subsidies, public housing, and weekly “cleanups” to clear public sidewalks.

I believe that we need more programs to assist with housing and employment. I thought about Hawaii’s current job market (tourism), Hawaii’s recent history (plantations), and Hawaii’s isolated geography. Here are 3 off-the-cuff ideas that combine jobs and housing.

Hotel room and board program. In Hawaii, tourism is one of our largest industries, employing over 150,000 people in 2010, according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority. We could create new property tax categories to allow hotels and resorts to set aside a limited number of rooms for employees. Hotels could pay a lower wage in return for providing a room, or receive a small tax credit by offering rooms to employees at subsidized rates. Hotels could even set aside an entire floor for employees, who could apply for a room by showing financial hardship.

Public parks caretakers. In Honolulu alone, the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) manages 290 named parks on 5,200 acres of land, employing over 1,800 people. To help maintain the parks and deter vandalism, the DPR could create a “Park Caretaker” program for larger staffed parks. Similar to a plantation community, one or two families could live in caretaker cabins, as long as at least one member of the household is employed by the park.

Job relocation program. Hawaii is an expensive place to live and the job market is limited. Sometimes we have to make the hard decision to move to cities where there are jobs and companies are desperate for qualified workers. A job relation program could help people find jobs in other states with larger job markets and more affordable housing. We could help individuals with resume writing, job applications, interviews, business attire, moving expenses, finding a first apartment, and even enrolling in schools. Teams of 2-5 individuals or families could even go through the job relocation program together, moving to the same city at the same time, perhaps initially living as roommates. They would become a built-in support network for advice, friendship, and even emergency babysitting.

What housing programs you consider successful in Hawaii? Do you think that Hawaii is doing a good job of addressing the affordable housing issue? Is it government’s responsibility to find homes for everyone?

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