With no signs of housing prices cooling off, advocates push for government aid

Updated: Feb. 15, 2021 at 4:17 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Even as the overall economy is struggling, the housing market in the islands is hotter than ever.

And that’s prompting advocates to call for change.

January was a record-breaking month for the Hawaii real estate market and experts say the market is unlikely to cool down anytime soon as people around the world eye the state’s housing inventory.

Oahu saw its highest single-family median home price last month ― at $890,000, according to Locations. The media price of a single-family home on the Big Island is $455,000, while the median on Maui is $980,000 ― up a staggering 26% from last year. Kauai, meanwhile, broke the $1 million mark.

“You’ve got more buyers in the market, you’ve got higher demand,” said Locations President and CEO Jason Lazzerini. “So that’s really taking a problem that was already here and really accelerating it. That’s why you see that home prices are so high. And that’s why the competitive market is so acute.”

In other words, it’s a great time to cash in or to buy, if you have money to spare.

But it’s a real issue for many of the people that call Hawaii home.

“It’s a huge problem,” said Gavin Thornton, with Hawaii Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice. “Our housing prices are completely disconnected from our local wages. And that means that local residents are suffering.”

Housing advocates want to change how we view housing. Instead of an investment, it should be seen as a necessity.

“So we need to be making progress as a state, making big time infrastructure investments and ensuring that those infrastructure investments are targeted toward building housing that’s affordable to local people,” Thornton said.

For years, lawmakers have discussed the affordable housing crisis.

State Sen. Stanley Chang, who’s now chair of the Senate Housing Committee, is pushing the Aloha Homes program that’s based on Singapore’s public housing model.

He would like to see hundreds of thousands of public housing units built on state-owned lands and sold to locals.

“There’s a lot of potential for this concept to meet the needs of middle income homeowners, or would be homeowners who can’t otherwise afford to buy a property in today’s market,” Chang said.

Meanwhile, the gap between the haves and have-nots continues to widen in Hawaii.

Affordable housing advocates will continue fighting for options, but admitted there isn’t a lot out there for people who can’t afford these high prices.

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