Study sheds light on affordable housing in Hawaii

LIHUE — There isn’t enough affordable housing available on any of the Hawaiian Islands, according to a study released recently by the Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corporation.

Ricky Cassiday, assistant professor at West Oahu Community College who authored the study, said one in five people in Hawaii needs an affordable housing unit. That number is one in 20 on Kauai.

“Basically, you look at this whole thing as a pyramid with homes for sale at the top, rental underneath, then affordable rental because that’s subsidized, and then the homeless,” Cassiday said. “You have to understand the whole pyramid to understand the affordable housing piece of it.”

In his study, Cassiday found that 2,987 dwelling units will be needed on Kauai by 2020 to meet the rising population on the island.

“To date, 185 units have been built from 2010 to 2013, leaving more than 2,800 more units that need to be built by 2020 in order to meet the household need,” he said in the survey.

With such a contrast between the need for housing and the number of houses on the market, Cassiday said most people who are in need of affordable, subsidized housing are doubling, or even tripling up.

“It’s worse on the other islands, but it’s happening here on Kauai, too,” Cassiday said. “You’re getting those situations where there’s multiple families living in one tiny place.”

Because of the lack of affordable housing on the island, more and more people are becoming homeless, he said.

“At its worst, being homeless, it’s like ‘Lord of the Flies’ or the Wild West,” Cassiday said. “So I’m hopeful that this issue will get more attention because the simple solution is to build more work-force level houses and a little bit above, as well as the public subsidized housing below.”

Cassiday used select information from the 2010 U.S. Census to arrive at his numbers.

“I like the population numbers, but I don’t like their housing numbers,” he said. “It wasn’t until page 20 that you told them about your house; very few people take the time to fill that out.”

Those people who live in affordable housing units generally live below the poverty line, Cassiday said, and they’re even less likely to fill out the lengthy form.

“They’re just going to chuck it over their shoulder,” he said. “They’re not going to fill out the entire form.”

To gather his information, Cassiday used the county tax assessors and analyzed the job market. He also scraped Craigslist for rental information.

“You just gather all this information and start looking at it as all connected and you start to see a story over time,” Cassiday said. “That’s the point of the study, is to tell the story of the affordable housing market.”

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