By Rev. John Heidel
POSTED on StarAdvertiser.com: 01:30 a.m. HST, Nov 12, 2014
The housing crisis in Hawaii has increased to such an alarming situation that every citizen needs to respond in at least two ways.
First, become informed about the reality of this crisis, and second, become involved in implementing the solutions.
The interfaith organization Faith Action for Community Equity (FACE) has been collecting information for a Nov. 15 Housing Summit that will be very helpful in both areas.
We have been interviewing local community leaders and a few people on the mainland and are ready to share the results.
What we’ve learned so far has highlighted the pervasive nature of this crisis in housing and has underlined an urgency that can no longer be ignored.
>> What: FACE Housing Summit
>> When: 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday
>> Where: State Capitol auditorium
>> Details: Panels on affordable renting, affordable owning, the houseless situation, financial and economic concerns, transit-oriented development, renewable energy and housing, and the future of housing. Mayor Kirk Caldwell will be keynote speaker. Free.
There are many indications of why this needs immediate action:
» The city’s concept of “affordable housing” needs redefining.
The current definition is based on earning 80-140 percent ($6,388-$11,178 a month) of area median income (AMI), and yet 75 percent of those in need of housing earn less than 80 percent AMI (ranging from full-time minimum wage of $1,160 to $4,000 a month).
» The economic gap between earning potential and the cost of housing is increasing and is already at a state of emergency.
With rentals typically priced at $900-$2,500 for a studio or 1-2 bedroom, 75 percent of workers cannot find affordable housing.
» We have a diminishing “middle class” being forced out of affordable living. Hawaii’s housing market and retail shops show a changing culture that targets a clientele of the very rich while those of a middle to lower income are frozen out.
» More than 200,000 Hawaii residents are among the “hidden houseless” — living with family or friends and just one argument away from being without shelter.
» The profit motive of some developers and general inflation have increased the cost of housing beyond the reach of most residents.
» It is becoming increasingly difficult for our young people to remain in the islands.
» Many businesses are finding it difficult to attract and retain qualified employees.
Many of our congregations provide food and transitional shelter to the houseless, but we have always realized these efforts were only serving as Band-Aids to a much larger concern. Clearly, the real issue is affordability.
Perhaps one of the obstacles to our having a clear picture of the current crisis is the way some economists describe a healthy economy. Regularly, when offering an economic forecast, they refer to the rising cost of housing as a sign of a robust, growing economy.
We see this as an unethical barometer. Shelter should not be just a privilege for the rich but a right of every person.
All of us — including our city and state governments — have a moral and civic responsibility to provide housing for everyone — but especially for those in the lower income brackets and those with particular needs; i.e., victims of substance abuse and mental disabilities.
On Saturday, learn more about this housing crisis, and add your energy and experience to the implementation of some solutions.
Join this community-wide discussion of developers, government officials and concerned citizens to help solve our housing crisis.