Supply of homes
a concern

Census data show new homes
outpacing isle population growth,
but experts decry costs

An increase in new housing outpaced the state's population growth rate, according to Census data, but local real estate officials say the need for new homes still exceeds demand.

U.S. Census estimates released today show that 9,970 housing units were added in Hawaii in the two years from Census 2000 until July 2002. That was a 2.2 percent increase to 470,512 housing units statewide last year from 460,542 in 2000.

More than half of the growth took place on the Big Island and Maui, according to the figures.

The housing increase is slightly more than the statewide population increase of 1.5 percent during the same period, except on Maui, which saw housing growth lag behind population growth.

Nationwide, Hawaii ranks 32nd, in the bottom half of states, when it comes to housing increases. Nevada tops the nation with a 9 percent growth rate over two years. New housing units include single-family homes, condominiums and apartments.


Despite the growth in home sales and construction in Hawaii recently, state and county officials said they are becoming increasingly concerned that the supply of affordable homes and rentals is shrinking.

"Affordable housing is starting to be an issue again," said Ed Taira, administrator of the Big Island's Office of Housing & Community Development.

"Statewide, there's not a whole lot of rentals," said Janice Takahashi, chief planner for the state Housing and Community Development Corp. of Hawaii.

The housing agency and the counties are gathering and analyzing information for a new survey of housing statewide.

"We need to see where we are, where the housing needs are, what kind of people need housing. It will help shape policy," Takahashi said.

Ricky Cassiday, a real estate consultant, said his research shows demand is outstripping supply for new homes.

"The way population is growing and the way housing prices are going, the idea of a single-family home for every person doesn't seem to have much of a future," Cassiday said.

"A lot of people are going to be priced out of the housing market, and will then have to consider rentals," he added.

On Oahu most of the housing growth is taking place in West and Central Oahu, said Steve Young, the chief of research in the city Department of Planning and Permitting.

However, the rate of housing growth is not as rapid as it was in the early 1990s when Honolulu was building close to 5,000 units a year, Young said.

When the economy slowed down, housing unit growth on Oahu slowed to about 1,000 new units in 1998, he said.

Since 2000, housing has been picking up again, but Young noted that except for housing for the elderly, almost no new rental units are being built.

Young speculates that low interest rates are enabling people who have been living with their parents to move out and use the equity they have been saving by living at home.

He noted that in older Oahu neighborhoods, the average number of people living in a housing unit is declining.

Gary Fuller, director of the population studies program at the University of Hawaii, said housing is also an indication of how well the economy is doing.

"The neighbor islands are growing much more quickly on a percentage basis than Oahu," said Cassiday. "They're attracting a lot more jobs because those that are doing the traveling now cherish the neighbor island experience over the Oahu experience. Jobs then drive housing purchases."


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