Proposal aims to tackle Hawaii’s affordable housing crisis by targeting non-residents

Day one of the new Hawaii State Legislature means fresh faces and innovative ideas.
Published: Jan. 18, 2023 at 6:52 PM HST|Updated: Jan. 19, 2023 at 10:43 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Day one of the new Hawaii State Legislature means fresh faces and innovative ideas.

One idea includes tackling Hawaii’s affordable housing crisis by going after non-residents.

“The problem that we’ve seen over the pandemic was the home prices went up $400,000,” said Minority Floor Leader Sen. Brenton Awa.

“There were a lot of people just paying cash, $100,000 on top of the next person’s offer, and so that’s what was driving these housing prices to go up so much,” Awa added.

According to a recent state report, 25% of homes were bought by out-of-state buyers from January to September 2022 — A significant increase from previous years.

The report also states more Canadians are buying more single-family homes and more people from Japan are buying more condominiums.

On the flipside, in several countries — like Canada — foreigners are not allowed to purchase homes.

Many people are wondering what can be done to accomplish the same goal in Hawaii.

One of Maui County Mayor Richard Bissen’s campaign promises was to create more housing for locals.

“To me, that’s so obvious. I mean, who else would you want to be advocating for?” Bissen said. “We should be advocating for our people who have been here for generations, who deserve to be here.”

However, it’s unconstitutional to reserve homes for Hawaii residents only.

“Wish the governor could just make it... gotta be born in Hawaii, or live here 20 years to buy,” Awa said.

“But it’s not that simple.”

Bissen said there is an obligation to do whatever they can within the law.

“And if we have to change the law, then that’s something that happens all the time, every session of the legislature,” Bissen said.

Senator Awa’s bill goes after the Hawaii Real Property Tax Act.

“If I buy a house, and I’m a non-resident, for $800,000, and I wanted to go sell it for a million dollars... well today I can do that, and I have to pay 7.5% of that $200,000 gain. Well, what we’re trying to do is make it 100%,” he said.

SB34 passed its first reading on Wednesday.

Awa is encouraging the public to testify so they can hear everyone’s ideas.

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