BY JACKIE CAHILL
The future of real estate on Guam is bright, Tae S. Oh, acting chairman of the Guam Land Use Commission, told the Journal.
There are many new development projects in Guam on the horizon, from townhouses to larger projects including the new Don Quijote and projects related to utilities — such as a solar farm and GPA’s new power plant. Additionally, there are a lot of interested parties who want to invest in Guam, especially from Asia, he said.
However, H-2 visas and high construction costs continue to be an issue. “Vacant land owners’ property values have gone down because it is less desirable now. Less people want to buy raw land in order to construct when construction costs are so high,” he said.
Oh said he thinks the 355 H-2 visas that were recently issued is a promising sign. “Hopefully it’s a good indication that the H-2 workers from the Philippines are not a total ban across the board and instead there’s exceptions being made and that’s a sign of that. That’s good news for contractors here, for developers here.”
But there is still a need for more H-2 visas for projects outside the military base, he said. He is also concerned that the influx of military families on Guam with the new Marine Corps base will create an even greater housing shortage for local working families. Without lower construction costs, he doesn’t foresee many affordable housing developments.
“The problem is construction costs are so high. If it’s going to cost the same for me to build to meet the military standards versus a local working family, the revenue difference is substantial. … Why would anyone want to build more for affordable housing? That’s the issue we’re having right now,” he said.
The GLUC is the overseeing government board for land development, zone change “and basically land use,” Oh said. Developers submit applications to the commission for projects with special conditions outside the normal building code such as zone changes, variances, conditional uses, etc.
“For example, there is a height variance on Guam,” Oh said. “You cannot build three stories or more on any land without getting approval from the GLUC.”
Oh was appointed acting chairman by the previous administration about six months ago. He sits with two other commissioners, Conchita D. Bathan and Hardy T.I. Vy; two seats remain vacant.
Operating with only three commissioners has been a challenge for the GLUC, which needs a minimum of three commissioners present to meet quorum. “Right now, with the quorum issues we are having … there are a lot of projects backed up in the pipeline,” Oh said.
In a March 19 meeting of the GLUC, the commission heard an application that had been submitted at the start of September 2018 for the extension of a permit set to expire at the end of October 2018.
“We are private citizens who are volunteering our services to GovGuam,” Oh said. “We’re not GovGuam employees. We have our own businesses, lives; and at certain times we can’t be there due to personal reasons. If even one of us can’t be there, then we don’t have quorum at this point.”
Lack of quorum also proves an issue for Oh and the other commissioners who have projects of their own in the works. “If there is any type of conflict of interest then we definitely recuse ourselves,” Oh said. Recusing himself means there is no way for any of his projects to be approved right now.
“I understand, that’s the nature of things and I’m willing to wait,” Oh said. “This is more of a public service that we’re doing.”
The GLUC is trying to get new members appointed. As of April 4, a fourth commissioner was pending, Oh told the Journal. He is hopeful with more commissioners, applications will move along in a timelier manner. In the meantime, the commission tries to hear as many applications in a day as possible to accommodate those who need approval. mbj