Food For Thought: Further Urbanization of Paradise

I moved to Honolulu six years ago, right before the peak of our Great Recession. As you may recall, the housing market took a great hit during this time. Ironically, I landed a job with a real estate firm six weeks after arriving in town and am currently still with the firm. Working in the real estate field provides one a very interesting point of view of the slow economic recovery. It’s intriguing to see the connection of the housing market to the current economic climate.


When I arrived in 2008, most, if not all, big housing projects and developments were halted. The construction industry was at a standstill. Fast forward six years later and the Honolulu skyline is littered with massive cranes and detour road signs are scattered all over the place. Tourism is alive and well again in Hawaii and a wave of investors from the Mainland and foreign countries are once again looking to own a piece of this paradise. Yes, the economy is looking pretty good!

I admit, when it comes to getting a huge housing development approved by the city, I don’t know much about the politics and hurdles that are involved. I do, however, know that most of the time, the pitch to the community by these development companies is to provide jobs, inventory, and affordable housing. Jobs – yes. Inventory – yes. Affordable housing? Hmm.

Now, I’m not playing devil’s advocate here, but here are some facts and figures:

  • There are almost 4,500 new units that will become available to Honolulu in the next couple of years.
  • About 5 percent of the nearly 4,500 housing units are affordable for low income people according to data from the Hawaii Community Development Authority.
  • Now, according to the U.S. Dept. of Housing & Urban Development, low income in Honolulu refers to those earning less than $76,650 per year for a family of four or $53,700 per year for an individual.
  • The Census ACS 1-year survey reports that the median household income for the Honolulu Hawaii metro area was $71,404 in 2012. Data for 2013 will be released sometime this September.
  • This past summer, median price for single-family home on Oahu surged to $700,000 while condos reached $360,000 as reported by the Honolulu Board of Realtors.
  • A recent forecast by the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization states that by 2015, median price for Oahu single-family homes could reach $773,800 and $376,300 for condo. This is also the year when most of the new housing developments will be completed.

I’m not a data analysis expert. I’m not even close to being one. However, these figures are just damn loopy to me!

I honestly do not know what Honolulu’s booming developments will mean for Oahu residents in general. It is definitely not without some unresolved community concerns.


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