Hawai?i Appleseed has released a report, Hawaiis Affordable Housing Crisis: The High Cost of Our Affordable Housing Shortfall, that details the severity of Hawaiis housing shortage and the financial strain it places on our working families, compiling the facts and figures that illustrate the dire housing situation facing Hawaii. To read the entire report, click here.
Housing is considered affordable when a household spends less than 30 percent of their income on shelter and utilities. Households that spend more are considered cost-burdened and are frequently forced to make difficult financial tradeoffs with other basic necessities. But securing affordable housing is a serious challenge for Hawaiis low-income residents, who face the highest cost of shelter in the country. More than half of all renters do not live in affordable housing, while almost 80 percent of the states 30,556 extremely low-income households are paying more than half of their income in rent. Our lack of affordable housing also threatens our future: excessive housing costs are associated with poorer health indicators and cognitive functioning for children.
The relatively low wages earned by Hawaiis renters compounds this shortage. Rent increases have outpaced both wage growth and inflation for years. The housing wage needed to afford a two bedroom apartment at fair market rent ($1,640/month) is $31.54. Meanwhile, the average wage of a renter is $13.86. On average, even professionals such as teachers, police officers, and construction workers do not earn Hawaiis housing wage.
Today, for every 100 extremely low-income families, there are only 29 affordable units available, and these households face years-long waits for Section 8 vouchers or public housing. The present situation is dire, and the future is as well: Hawaii is projected to need nearly 30,000 new housing units by 2016 to meet demand; two-thirds of these units are needed for those who are considered low income or below. Yet little affordable housing, particularly rental units, is under development.
Hawaiis acute homelessness crisis is one of the worst consequences of this affordable housing shortfall. We have the highest rate of homelessness among the states, with no decrease in sight. More than 13,000 individuals throughout the islands received homeless services in 201342 percent of whom were new clients. Thousands more households are at risk of homelessness or are part of the hidden homeless, forced to double up with other families out of economic necessity.
Key recommendations in the report include: