Affordable Housing

Hawai‘i’s low income residents face the highest cost of living in the nation, including the highest cost of housing.

To view the entries and winners of May 16's design competition, please click here.

Housing Costs in Hawaii

  • Hawaii’s rents exceed the national average by 50%, with about 75% of households in poverty spending more than half of their income on rent.
  • Hawai‘i’s housing costs are the highest among the states, while Honolulu is the most expensive metropolitan area for housing.
  • A minimum wage worker would have to work 177 hours per week, 52 weeks per year, to afford a two bedroom apartment at market rent. The “housing wage”—what a worker would need to earn hourly to afford a two bedroom apartment at fair market rent—is $32.14. Meanwhile, the average hourly wage for a renter is $13.56, while minimum wage is just $7.25.
  • In large part due to the lack of affordable housing, Hawai‘i has the highest homelessness rate among the fifty states. Inability to pay rent and eviction are frequently cited as events leading to homelessness. Even for those who are working or ready to move into permanent housing, there are few affordable options, causing them to languish in shelters or transitional housing.
  • Hawai‘i has the highest rate of “doubling up” in the country, where multiple generations live in one unit.

Hawai‘i residents at middle income levels have trouble finding affordable housing or purchasing homes, but low-income families face a severe affordability crisis. Our work focuses on affordable rental housing for those in greatest need. Our advocacy focuses on demonstrating the urgency of this crisis, reducing barriers to affordable housing, legislative initiatives to promote affordable housing, and centralizing information on the state of affordable housing in Hawai‘i.

This page will continue to develop as a resource on the housing needs of our low-income community, the state of affordable housing in Hawai‘i, and how to expand our housing stock. Please continue to check back as we develop these pages and update it with the latest news and research on affordable housing in Hawai‘i and nationally.

Click on the following headings to read more about the creation of affordable rental housing in Hawaii.

Reports and Resources

In April 2014, Hawaii Appleseed released a report recommending that alternative dwelling units (ADU) be used as an important part of a solution to the affordable rental housing crisis in Hawaii. Accessory dwelling units are small, separate living areas with their own kitchen, bathroom, and sleeping space that can be built on single family lots and may be attached or detached from a main house. Click here to read more. To read the entire report, click here.

In November 2013, Hawaii Appleseed released a report entitled Reimagining Housing in Hawaii, detailing successful affordable housing models like microunits, ohana housing, modular housing, among others. These models have been successful in places as diverse as the Bronx, Seattle, Santa Cruz, Alabama, and Amsterdam.

In February 2012, the Hawai`i Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice released this report entitled “Addressing Homelessness: New Approaches to Affordable Housing in Hawai`i”.

Click here to read the report in color and here for black and white.

Below is a list of some of the organizations and coalitions working on advancing affordable housing in Hawaii.