Apr 25, 2011

What do you do when Housing is Unaffordable? SHARED SPACES!

"Among all [US] markets, Honolulu was the least affordable market, with a Median Multiple of 8.5, while Santa Cruz (CA) had a Median Multiple of 7.2."

These results reinforce the need for legalization of Accessory Dwellings Units in Honolulu, similar to what was done in Santa Cruz's (award winning) ADU Program. As part of their program to ease housing affordability, they loosened regulations, publicized the permit process and provided city financing to create Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU's). However, this was only one step of several recommendations made in their 2002 Housing Study.

Many of the recommendations in that Housing Study would require significant research before they can be applied to Honolulu. However, ADU's are readily achievable because their impact is minimal and in the absence of a legal alternative, people are building recreation rooms and renting them illegally.

A key question that emerges from this research is WHAT NEXT? What else can we do as a community to improve housing affordability? Are urban densification and high-rises our only options? New Jersey is one of the densest areas in the Unites States, yet, is not covered in skyscrapers. How might Tokyo's idea of shared spaces open the door to alternatives
*NOTE: Regarding the Demographia Survey, (I think) due largely to language barriers and data collection constraints, only the following countries are included in the survey: Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, United Kingdom, United States, and China (Hong Kong). Also, the survey does rank/compare the major metropolitan areas (greater than 1 Million people); Honolulu does not rank in that listing because we are NOT a "major metro area" - as defined by Demographia. However, in the comprehensive listing across all metro areas surveyed, we are #7 internationally, but #1 amongst cities in the US.

It's also important to remember that compared to other cities, Hawaii has a significantly higher rate of doubling-up. That is there are more people per bedroom; multigenerational families are commonplace. The state of Hawaii formed a joint legislative task force to study how we can reduce barriers to support aging-in-place and specifically, multigenerational housing.

Also, while Hawaii has higher average housing prices, we also have lower wages -- for the same job -- as compared to the mainland US. (Except if you work for the federal gov't. I've heard anecdotally that you will receive a higher COLA, cost of living allowance, in Hawaii vs elsewhere.)