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Tsunami of foreclosures is headed Hawaii's way


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POSTED: Wednesday, April 15, 2009

If you are thinking Hawaii is about to turn the economic corner like the rest of the country, wait — there's more coming.

Still out there, but headed this way, is last year's scourge, which devastated portions of the mainland: foreclosures.

A relatively new organization, Housing Hawaii, which serves as a think tank for housing ideas, says Hawaii is about to be smacked hard.

“;Our data shows ... it will develop significantly in the next two years,”; predicts Nani Medeiros, Housing Hawaii executive director.

Medeiros served six years as the housing and homeless adviser in Gov. Linda Lingle's office. Before that she worked for both Republicans and Democrats in the Legislature. She's someone who knows her way around both budgets and policies.

“;It's in the community's best interest to step up and develop a coordinated plan to address foreclosure on all levels, and from all perspectives — client, lender, service, legal, neighborhood, social services, and public safety,”; Medeiros wrote.

The statistics Medeiros assembled show Hawaii to be close to the peak in housing prices, not just in the country, but in the world.

“;Honolulu was the third most unaffordable housing market in the world in 2007 and is ranked fourth most unaffordable in 2008,”; Medeiros reports.

She adds that despite that, some have managed to purchase and refinance a home in Hawaii.

Now foreclosures may cloud the situation even more, because 77 percent of the homeowners in Honolulu are older than 52 and nearing retirement. Of course, the rest of Hawaii Housing's stats show that Honolulu's working couples can't afford to buy those houses.

What is happening, Medeiros says, is a huge housing dislocation and continuing pressure. The increasing number of foreclosures reflects the problem.

The average homeowner in Hawaii is seeing a $24,700 decrease in property value, partially because of foreclosures, Medeiros says.

For the state and the city, hoping to get more from tax collections, the news is likely to be a drop of $4 billion in the next year.

Other states have adopted a number of coping measures. Hawaii has not.

Some ways of helping would include state-funded refinancing programs to avoid foreclosure, required loan modification or increased counseling for first-time buyers.

One encouraging note, Medeiros reports, is that some social agencies now are putting more emphasis on helping those faced with foreclosure. The discouraging last note is that we haven't even started to see the worst of it.

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Richard Borreca writes on politics every Wednesday. Reach him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).