Hawaii needs 50,156 new homes — for sale and rent — over the next five years to meet demand, but only a small fraction of that number likely will be built.
So says a new state study on the supply and demand of local housing that historically has been out of balance.
“As in all the previous (Hawaii Housing Planning Study) reports, we find again that the housing supply continues to lag behind demand in Hawaii,” the report said.
The study, prepared by Honolulu-based SMS Research & Marketing Services for a state agency that assists in affordable-housing development, noted that the imbalance isn’t as bad as it was three years ago when a similar study projected the need for 60,000 new homes over five years.
SMS reduced its demand projection due to Hawaii’s population dipping a bit in recent years, but this trend of slight population decline may not continue.
Meanwhile, homebuilders have been producing fewer homes in recent years, and SMS expects a further slowing of production now through 2030.
The study said homebuilders produced 2,675 new homes on average annually from 2014 to 2017, which was down from a 2,800-home annual average between 2011 and 2014. From 2009 to 2011 in the wake of a national recession that dinged the housing market, the annual average was 5,600 new homes built in Hawaii.
To satisfy future demand, 10,000 new homes per year are needed, according to the study released earlier this month. But over the next decade, SMS projects in the report that an annual average of under 2,000 new homes will be produced.
Mike McCartney, director of the state Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism, said in a statement that the report provides stakeholders with critical information to help accelerate the development of housing, especially affordable housing.
“There is an urgent need to build more affordable housing units in order to maintain a sustainable island economy,” he said.
Denise Iseri-Matsubara, interim executive director of the Hawaii Housing Finance & Development Corp., the agency for which SMS produced the study, said in a statement that the report will be used to reevaluate focus points of HHFDC’s programs for accelerating affordable housing.
Several major impediments to housing production exist in Hawaii. The report cited a lack of reasonably priced land suited for development, high development costs, government regulations, community opposition and environmental issues.
The report also said that the local housing market is “supply inelastic,” which means a change in demand doesn’t lead to a timely or efficient change in production.
“That leads to low production and high prices,” the report said.
Prices for housing in Hawaii have been among the highest in the nation dating back to at least the end of World War II.
The median home sale price in Hawaii in 2018 was $689,000 for single-family houses and $430,000 for condominiums, according to the report, which did not have a statewide sale price for last year. Monthly rent in Hawaii last year was $2,315 and was highest among states.
The report said high housing costs contributed to 23.1% of Hawaii households spending more than 40% of their income on housing, and 9.7% of households spending 30% to 40%. A figure over 30% is considered cost-burdened.
SMS based its calculation for needed new housing in the next five years on factors that include population, a survey of more than 5,000 households and estimates for alleviating pent-up demand and homelessness.
Of the 50,156 needed homes, 23,590 should be for buyers and 26,566 should be for renters, the study said.
Most of the new homes are needed on Oahu (22,168) followed by Hawaii island (13,303), Maui (10,404) and Kauai (4,281).
The study said that of the 50,156 needed homes, 18,078 are to accommodate population growth, 28,459 to address pent-up demand and 3,619 for the homeless.
Pent-up demand includes demand from people who share a home with others but prefer their own home. The report said that 13.6% of Hawaii households were crowded last year, defined as having more than two people per bedroom. That was up from 10.5% in 2016.
At the same time, many Hawaii homes are vacant.
The report’s most recent data on vacant housing is from 2017 when there were 79,999 vacant homes in the state out of 532,880 housing units. Of the 79,999 vacant homes, 27,354 were available for rent or sale. Another 52,645 weren’t available to residents mainly because owners hold them for seasonal personal use. Some of these unavailable homes also include properties being renovated, tied up in litigation or estate issues and other circumstances.
SMS called the number of vacant and unavailable homes a major concern, given that the number of such homes increased 11.2% from 2014 while housing available for residents rose by just 1.1%.
“In recent years, Hawaii has been building more units that aren’t being used for Hawaii families,” the report said. “The market gets tighter as we build in more unavailable units.”
The report noted that Hawaii homes remain popular for out-of-state buyers who represented 23.9% of home purchasers in 2018. Over the prior decade, the figure was as high as 33.5% in 2010 and as low as 22.1% in 2015.
Of the out-of-state buyers, about 85% are from the mainland and 15% are international, the report said.
“Most of the demand for residential real estate in Hawaii originates from our residents, but the housing market is also affected by demand from outside the state,” the report said.
Homes in Hawaii: 532,880*
Median home age: 42 years
Vacant homes: 79,999*
New homes needed by 2024: 50,156
Source: Hawaii Housing Planning Study * in 2017