[ OPINION ]
Moratorium on new housing in Mililani would be a mistake
A homes developer responds to calls seeking to block new homes in Central Oahu
CERTAIN Mililani residents and others -- primarily a coalition of Neighborhood Board # 25 members and supporters -- are reacting to the realities of modern life with a radical, end-of-the-spectrum proposal that would prohibit construction of any new housing in Central Oahu.
A moratorium on new housing construction is the last thing we need. With the median home price on Oahu at an all-time high of $650,000 in March, the call for a moratorium could not come at a worse time. A moratorium would deny Oahu residents something we all hold dear -- our ability to choose where we want to live -- and price some out of the market entirely.
The Hawaii HomeOwnership Center reports that homeownership rates on Oahu have averaged about 55 percent since the mid-1990s, or about 10 percentage points below the national average. Potential homeowners here need choices and more -- not fewer -- opportunities to purchase a home.
The heart of the moratorium backers' argument is that schools and highways must be built and waiting by the time the first home is constructed and the first family moves into a new community. They call this "concurrency," and they're asking for a housing moratorium until such time that the City's Central Oahu Sustainable Communities Plan is amended to require it.
On its surface, concurrency as they define it may appear reasonable. But in reality, it would simply halt the construction of homes for our residents without addressing these concerns. In the case of schools, the Department of Education and the Legislature would not be acting in our interests by spending tens of millions of dollars for schools in a community before the first house is built. If there were no houses in a planned community, funds would be appropriated to schools in existing communities. Under the moratorium proposal, if there were no new school, no homes could be built. It's a chicken-and-egg question, but in the end, there would be neither schools nor homes.
A housing moratorium will not accelerate or ensure the development of infrastructure. It could even have the opposite effect. Developers must contribute land and millions of dollars toward schools, roads, highways, parks and utilities as they develop new communities. A moratorium on housing would effectively cut off such contributions that also benefit existing residents.
Traffic and perceived school overcrowding are complex issues neither new nor unique to Central Oahu or other growth areas. In fact, these conditions exist because of the desirability and economic vitality of the areas in which people choose to live.
From 2000 to 2005, approximately 40 percent of Mililani Mauka buyers (roughly 200 per year) were already residing in Mililani when they chose to move within Mauka to a new home that better suited their housing needs and circumstances.
It's highly likely that when Mililani Mauka is completed in approximately two years, current residents of Mililani and surrounding areas will once again seek a home in Central Oahu when their family circumstances change. Our experience also reveals that many young adults want to live near where they grew up. Roughly 90 percent of Mililani buyers have been from Central and Leeward Oahu.
Central Oahu is a desirable place to raise families, and thousands of families already have made that choice, but this is not just a Mililani or Central Oahu issue. The proposed moratorium would curtail the supply of homes and increase the price of all housing on Oahu.
Some who have achieved the dream of owning a home in a desirable Central Oahu community now oppose more Central Oahu homes for others. It is notable that many years ago this same Neighborhood Board opposed the development of Mililani Mauka, based on similar concerns. Had they succeeded, the thousands of new families in Mililani Mauka would not own their homes and would not be raising their families there as new neighbors in Mililani.
Castle & Cooke is proud to be providing families the opportunity and dream of living in a nice home in a great community, and we look forward to collaboration with all interested parties to address the inevitable challenges that come with creating new housing opportunities.
Alan K. Arakawa is executive vice president, residential operations, at Castle & Cooke Homes Hawaii, Inc. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org