BY MAUREEN N. MARATITA
The University of Guam kicked off the 13th Annual Conference on Island Sustainability with an April 5 press conference that allowed key players to share thoughts.
UOG President Thomas W. Krise said the university is hopeful for its sustainable future. Though the university’s strategic plan, he said, “We have made it a UOG priority to become recognized as a research institution centered in island wisdom – a concept that very much incorporates island sustainability.” … “We are proud to be implementing the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development goals in locally and culturally effective ways – whether that is working to preserve our coral reefs, discovering and protecting new species, restoring our island water shed, beautification projects for social and economic development implementation projects, the UOG Tritons are pooling our amazing resources to do our part.”
Gov. Lourdes A. Leon Guerrero described sustainability as a key issue for the island.
“Over the past few years, Guam has made significant progress towards creating a sustainable future for our island.” Guam is addressing issues like climate change, food security and waste management, she said.
Anita Borja Enriquez, senior vice president and provost, said UOG has aims for the sustainability of the island’s workforce. “We are also intent on building the capacity that’s needed in many different industries towards many different causes.”
Keynote Speaker Suzanne Vares-Lum, the newly appointed president of the East West Center in Hawaii, said conferences are important. “Through education and events like this, we can be solution makers for the events that are happening in our islands and our seas,” she said.
“The Pacific is our people; we have a special responsibility to make sure that we are elevating those voices,” she said.
Siska S. Hutapea, founder and president of Cornerstone Valuation Guam Inc., was the keynote speaker for the Guam Housing Symposium on April 5.
She gave an overview of the real estate market and detailed its challenges. “Our market is very small, and any additional units disrupt the market,” Hutapea said. Developments that bring in inventory in stages – such as Paradise Estates – are the best ones, she said.
Prices of single-family dwellings and the price of construction are additional challenges, she said. Low interest rates are one factor in the increase of price in the housing market, Hutapea said, with not enough low-income housing such as Ironwood Estates – a Low-Income Housing Tax Credit development – coming into the market. The advantage of such a development with rent of $600, Hutapea said, is that “Low-income families were able to raise their children in a very nice environment.”
Solutions are varied to assist people wanting to build, Hutapea said, with one solution being to assist with removing the cost of utilities to a property. “What we can do is provide infrastructure so they can start building.” Additionally, she said, providing different types of dwelling models to speed the permitting process for building could be possible.
Leasing public lands could provide funding, Hutapea said. “We haven’t been a good steward of public land; there’s a lot of land we could lease to provide funding to the Chamorro Land Trust Commission.”
Hutapea said one source of ongoing frustration should be solved. “There needs to be streamlining to the permitting process.” A delay of months hinders investment, she said, suggesting a permitting deadline of 60 days. Equally zoning laws could be relaxed, Hutapea said. “It can take more than two ears to have a setback variance in Guam – that’s appalling. … I think we need to look at the zoning law more realistically.”
The conference agenda for in-person and virtual attendees and registration can be found here uog.edu/cis2022. mbj