October 1994 Home   Newsletters

November 1994

December 1994

President's Message: Honolulu Needs the League of Women Voters (Suzanne Meisenzahl)
And a Good Time Was Had by All... (Arlene Ellis)
Board Cuts Down the Telephone Tree (Grace Furukawa)
TV Production Committee Formed
Fact Sheet on Violence and Lobbying Strategy Planned (Suzanne Meisenzahl)
New Member Orientation Planned for January, 1995
Honolulu Mayor Invited to Speak at Dec. Meeting
Conventional Wisdom Meets the State Data Book (Astrid Monson)
Hawaii Chosen for Cancer Screening Trial
Cancer Links, Water Resources Studied (Carol Kleppin)
Teamster Union Vote Count
League Principles Define Local League Action
Books to Ponder
League Produced Programs to Air on 'Olelo Channel
1994-95 Membership Directory Changes

Conventional Wisdom Meets the State Data Book

The 1993-94 State Data Book (SDB) is not exactly exciting reading. It contains 542 pages of statistical tables on 24 subjects, and is certainly not meant for cover-to-cover reading. Even a quick glance through its pages, however, reveals some interesting facts which often call into question some of the conventional wisdom (CW) we accept. It also provides many of the basic parameters we need to understand important land use, development, population, and transit issues. Here are a few examples:

CW: Oahu has very limited land area. By restricting land on which urban uses are permitted, government has kept land prices high, development is prevented, and housing is made more expensive.

SDB: Of the island's 375,220 acres, between 1987 and 1992 urban uses (housing, industry, commercial and hotel) increased from 43,825 to 44,292 acres, a growth of 467 acres, or 1%. In the Honolulu District, 15,738, or 29% of its total 54,139 acres were in urban uses in 1992, while only 2,641 or 4.8% were classified as "usable vacant." In the rest of Oahu, urban uses occupied 28, 553 of its total 321,081 acres, or 9%. Usable vacant land was 37,129 acres, or 11.6%. The balance of the island's land was in agricultural use (69,927 acres) or other uses, primarily conservation and other areas unsuitable for urban development (221,233 acres). (Table 6-2)

CW: The State Land Use Commission keeps Oahu from developing urban land uses such as housing.

SDB: In 1994, the State Land Use Commission had 98,101, or 25.4%, of Oahu's total area classified in urban districts (Table 6-4), compared with the 44,292 acres actually in urban use (Table 6-2).

CW: Federal, state and county governments own most of the land on Oahu.

SDB: The federal government owns 48,861 acres (12.1%); state, 59,541 acres, (17.2%); and county, 11,162 acres, (2.8%). Privately owned land comprises 273,590 acres, or 67.9% of Oahu's total. The SDB does not show a breakdown of the private ownership of Oahu's land, but in 1993 in the state as a whole seven large landowners owned 991,998 acres, or 24.1% of the total. (Table 6-5)


CW: The best way to provide affordable housing is by "infill," or building rental or condo units in central locations. "Market" housing should be built in suburban areas.

SDB: In 1992,144,815 (53.4%) of Oahu's 271,108 dwelling units were single-family and duplex units; 110,533 (40.8%) were high-density multiples; and 15,760 (5.8%) were low-density multiples. In the Honolulu district, its 1,015 low-density multiples comprised only 0.7% of the total 148,132 homes in the city. (Table 6-2)

But most affordable types of housing, when both land and construction costs are taken into consideration, are low-rise, low-density multiples such as town houses, clusters and garden apartments. Highrise, steel-and-concrete high-density elevator structures are built because of the high land costs in central parts of the city.

CW: The private housing market meets the needs of most of Honolulu's families who need housing. Only the lowest income families need any kind of government assistance.

SDB: In 1992 and 1993 combined, 3,929 single-family homes and 6,604 condominiums were sold. Of these, 138 (1.35%), were priced at less than $100,000; another 380 (3.6%) were between $100,000 and $125,000; 857 (8.1%), were between $125,000 and $150,000. All but 19 of these 1,375 units were condominiums. The median selling price of the single-family homes sold was $354,000; of the condominiums, $193,000 (Table 21-29). In 1993 the average monthly rent for a 3 room, 800 square ft. apartment in Honolulu was $1,040, the highest among the ten U.S. high rent cities listed. The median rent for U.S. cities was $425. (Table 21-3 1)

At the accepted income-toprice ratio of 2.5:1, a $100,000 house would require an annual family income of $40,000; a $150,000 home, $60,000; a $345,000 home, $141,000. At the rent-to-income ratio of 30%, a $1,040 monthly rent would require an annual income of $41,600; a family sized house with three bedrooms, assumed to rent at $1,400, would require an income of $56,000.

CW: A considerable amount of "affordable" housing is being built, especially in suburban areas. Prices of $175,000 to $250,000 are "affordable."

SDB: The median 1992 household income in the state was $42,171. (Table 13-10)

It would take a $70,000 income (140% of median) to afford a $175, 000 house; $100,000 (200% of median) for a $250,00 house. Only a small fraction of Oahu 's families can afford these prices.

CW: In the last few years, the rate of construction of housing has picked up, and in not too many years the problem will no longer be critical. Government should get out of the way and let the housing industry take care of the problem.

SDB: In 1992 the total number of homes for which building permits were taken out on Oahu was 4,255. Since 1987, the number of permits for new one family and duplex dwellings has dropped from 2,808 to 1,899, but the number for new apartments has risen from 785 to 2,356. (Table 21-7)

Oahu, however, has a shortfall of "affordable" housing for families with below median incomes, variously estimated at between 30,000 and 50,000 units. To make a real dent in the shortfall, Oahu would have to build at least 2, 000 affordable units a year for 20 years or more.

Selected material from the SDB on population, tourism, taxation and transit will appear in future issues of the Voter.

Astrid Monson
Chair, Planning & Zoning Committee

October 1994 Home   Newsletters December 1994