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Low wages, high rents lead to affordable housing crisis

By Staff | Jun 21, 2018

Out of Reach 2018, a report released last week by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, details the significant gap between wages and the cost of rental housing in Hawaii.

“This new national report confirms what we all know: Hawaii is facing the worst affordable housing crisis in the country,” said Gavin Thornton, co-director of the Hawaii Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice.

Out of Reach analyzed income and rental prices, determining a “housing wage” – an estimate of the hourly wage a full-time worker must earn to pay fair market rent without spending more than 30 percent of his or her income on housing costs.

In Maui County, the average renter wage is $840 per month, but the fair market rent for a one-bedroom unit is $1,427/month. For a two-bedroom unit, the price rises to $1,879 per month.

To achieve the “housing wage,” Maui residents must earn $21.62/hour for a studio, $24.85 for a one-bedroom, $31.13 for a two-bedroom, $45.29 for a three-bedroom and $54.85 for a four-bedroom rental.

Keep in mind that the minimum wage here is $10.10/hour, and the average renter wage is $16.16.

The study concluded that we have the largest shortfall between the average renter wage and “housing wage” in the nation.

One positive development is the state recently approved spending $570 million to generate more than 25,000 affordable units across the state by the year 2030.

“We applaud our state’s leaders for committing $200 million towards affordable housing. We need to make sure government funding for housing is targeted to those among us who need help the most,” Thornton said.

A good place to start is preserving low rents in the Front Street Apartments here in Lahaina.