Gov. Josh Green declares State of Emergency for housing crisis; 1 resident leaving Hawaiʻi every 36 minutes
July 17, 2023, 3:53 PM HST
* Updated July 17, 5:22 PM
Gov. Josh Green has declared a State of Emergency in Hawai‘i, the most unaffordable housing market in the nation.
Green’s emergency proclamation, signed on July 17, seeks to expedite the construction of new homes through a slew of measures including appointing a state Lead Housing Officer, creating a working group and streamlining established regulatory processes.
“We don’t have enough houses for our people. It’s really that simple,” Green said at a press conference Monday afternoon. “That is where we are and we are struggling and suffering because that is the case.”
According to Green, Hawai‘i must construct 50,000 new housing units by 2025 to meet current demand.
The median price of a single-family home in Hawai‘i is $850,000, nearly three times the national average. The median cost of a condominium is $600,000 – a price that’s tripled since the 1990s.
An annual income of $252,000 is needed to afford a new median-priced home in Hawai‘i. Fewer than one in three households can afford a single-family home, and fewer than one in two can afford a condo.
Native Hawaiians are disproportionately affected by the statewide housing crisis, as they hold the lowest median household income of major ethnic groups in Hawai‘i. They’re also leaving the state in record numbers: more native Hawaiians now live on the mainland than in the archipelago.
“We have one of the highest rates of population exodus in the country … Altogether, we have 14,500 people leaving Hawai‘i every single year,” said Senate Housing Committee Chair Stanley Chang (D-9).
“That means one local person is leaving every 36 minutes in Hawai‘i. If that were going to be caused by an earthquake or a tsunami, or a flood or a hurricane, there would be no doubt in anyone’s minds … that that would be an emergency, that time would stop for the state government until we had solved that problem,” Chang said. “Today, time is stopping. This is a historic moment.”
The “residential exodus” described by Chang and Green has led to chronic shortages in nurses and school teachers, who make $113,000 and $63,000 per year, respectively.
“Thousands and thousands of people that are the backbone of our society – they leave Hawai‘i because they can afford to live elsewhere, but they can’t afford to live here,” Green said.
The Emergency Proclamation will be in place for 12 months, and must be re-signed every 60 days by Gov. Green. The proclamation can be amended at any time.
The proclamation’s Lead Housing Officer, when appointed, will convene stakeholders to accelerate permitting processes, eliminate duplication, explore approaches to increase the development of housing, share best practices, create working groups, prioritize housing projects, review accountability, encourage housing development and encourage transit-oriented development.
The proclamation also establishes a Build Beyond Barriers Working Group and creates alternative processes for State Historic Preservation Review and Environmental Reviews.
“This proclamation is an experiment to see if we can build faster in a shorter period of time by easing many rules and processes to help alleviate an incredibly huge crisis,” said Chair of the House Committee on Housing Troy Hashimoto (D-8).
“Monitoring and understanding what works and what doesn’t will be critically important, as at some point we will have to go back to regular order,” Hashimoto said. “But we need permanent fixes, which will have to be changed by the Legislature and the county councils to see long-term progress.”