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Affordable Housing: Nothing Being Built on Neighbor Islands

Wayne Yoshioka

The State and Counties are trying to meet a projected demand for 65-thousand housing units by 2030.  That estimate from the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.   But as HPR’s Wayne Yoshioka reports, one millennial couple is not waiting for the government and is choosing to buy now.

Loren Bullard and fiancé Colin Hosking are Millennials in their early 30’s.   They took classes at the Hawai’i HomeOwnership Center, and a year-and-a-half later, they cashed in their savings for a 32-thousand dollar down payment on a condominium.

“We felt it was a risk, especially using 401K and my state retirement that came out of it but we thought it was really our only way to get our foot into the market here and then after that we can use that house down the road and make up for that risk we’ve taken.”

Hoskings is a social worker earning 57-thousand dollars a year.  Bullard, a technical assistant, earns 52-thousand.  But, their first-time condominium purchase came with a big surprise.

“We were thinking, “okay” we can save money for furniture and closing costs are going to be $3-thousand.  No.  It was an eye opener when we started talking to the escrow company and they came back with $12-thousand.  We’re like, “What?”  It wasn’t an expense we had really understood or known about.”

Saving enough money to cover purchase costs can be challenging especially when housing prices continue to rise.  State Office of Planning director Leo Asuncion says building rental and for sale housing at a steady pace throughout the state is part of the solution…

“I could easily say 22,500 affordable rental housing, statewide goal.  We may be able to accommodate all on O’ahu.  But that just means Maui not gonna have;  the other neighbor islands not gonna have.  They’re gonna fall into the same affordable housing need cycle that we’re going through.”

UH Economics Professor Carl Bonham agrees.  He says the high rise cycle on O’ahu appears to be ending but continuing to build affordable housing now when prices are on the rise should be the goal.  He also says state leaders should look at affordable housing from a statewide perspective.

“On O’ahu what we’re waiting for is Ho’opili, and they started.  And Koa Ridge is still doing infrastructure work.  You know,  those projects will take 10-15 years, maybe even longer.  The thing’s that different right now is that the neighbor islands haven’t been building.  In the last cycle the neighbor islands represented about 2/3rds of all construction.  And right now, they’ve barely budged off of their lows from post-great recession.”

Meanwhile, Bullard and Hosking are saving as much as they can.   They put off their wedding, they’re keeping their 12 year-old truck, and looking forward to moving with their dog, Jack, to their new place next summer.

(Bullard)  “We got a one bedroom, it’s 473 square feet and it’s overlooking the building next door so there’s nothing there.  But it’s going to be in a great neighborhood in Ward, Kaka’ako area so it’s gonna be fun.”  (Hosking)  “We’re really excited.  We put a lot of money on it but building didn’t start on it until January of this year.  We kinda thought we gave somebody a bunch of money and we didn’t really know what we’re doing.  But now construction has started and we’re starting to see a physical thing there and we get excited every time we drive past.”

For HPR News, I’m Wayne Yoshioka.

Wayne Yoshioka
Wayne Yoshioka is an award-winning journalist who has worked in television, print and radio in Hawaiʻi. He also has been on both sides of politics as a state departmental appointee and political/government reporter. He covered Hurricane Iwa (1982) as a TV reporter; was the State Department of Defense/Civil Defense spokesperson for Hurricane Iniki (1992); and, commanded a public affairs detachment in Afghanistan (2006). He has a master's degree in Communication from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and is a decorated combat veteran (Legion of Merit, Bronze Star and 22 other commendation/service medals). He resides in Honolulu.
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