Older neighborhoods
might fulfill housing need


A Census Bureau report shows that Hawaii has the most crowded homes in the nation.

HIGH costs and cultural practices contribute to Hawaii's distinction of having what the U.S. Census Bureau notes as the most crowded households in the nation. However, the numbers also point to a need to reconsider the variety and locations for housing as land prices and limitations and infrastructure pressures strain against further development.

Current land use and zoning provisions may require revisions, especially in the urban core of Honolulu, in lieu of continuing suburban sprawl that further increases demands for roads, costly transit systems, sewer and water lines and schools at the same time that government finds itself revenue short.

It should come as no surprise that census figures show Hawaii leads the country in what the bureau terms "crowded" homes. The report places 15.4 percent of homes in the state in the category of having more than one occupant per room, way ahead of the national percentage of 5.7. With the median price of a home on Oahu at just below $400,000 and more on the neighbor islands, it's no wonder extended families find themselves all living under one roof.

Cultural traditions among Pacific Islanders and Asians also fuel census numbers. The report shows that among Asians, 20.5 percent live in crowded units and 11.1 percent in "severely crowded" units, defined as more than 1.5 occupants per room. For Pacific Islanders and native Hawaiians, the percentages go up to 25.7 percent in crowded and 13.2 percent in severely crowded units.

Meanwhile, as homes are built farther away from the primary business and commercial district, roads become further congested, as more suburban commuters are added to the crunch of cars headed downtown.

The situation spurred Makakilo-Kapolei residents, frustrated by constant traffic bottlenecks, to call for a halt on home construction until they get relief. The clamor surely prodded landowner Campbell Estate to accelerate a road project to improve access for its housing developments. The federal government, Campbell Estate and other developers were to share the cost improving the Makakilo interchange to the H-1 freeway, but the estate says it will also take on the $11.2 million job itself -- in exchange for credits for required impact fees -- and get both done by late next year instead of in five or more years as originally planned.

That's commendable. However, as spawning Central Oahu housing development feeds more traffic from H-2, the estate's effort may be negated as West Oahu and Ewa commuters will encounter bottlenecks further down the road.

Relief for the demand for housing may lie in urban renewal, an old concept often overlooked on Oahu. A mix of multi- and single-family homes and commercial/business redevelopment in underused areas like Waipahu and Kapahulu could provide a range of housing choices for all income levels without the need for additional infrastructure and with access to existing services like schools and mass transit. Government should encourage such revival projects; they do not place such heavy burdens on taxpayers and the environment as does the development of new regions.



Oahu Publications, Inc. publishes the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, MidWeek and military newspapers

David Black, Dan Case, Larry Johnson,
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