I am from the mainland, scheduled to arrive in Hawaii this week.
I read with some empathy the governor’s request to postpone travel and have considered it carefully.
The hotel I booked will not refund my payment, and the airport transfer company and several of the attractions I have paid for in advance have said the same thing.
Hawaii would like me to do the right thing but keep the money I spent two years saving for the trip of a lifetime.
With all respect, I am coming. I will respect the customs and culture of Hawaii and certainly all of the virus requirements in place or issued.
‘The dirty truth’
We see politicians endlessly wringing their hands about the “affordable housing crisis.” Voters say it’s one of their biggest concerns. Yet, this crisis gets worse every year.
In fact, since 2020, Hawaii housing prices and rents shot up another 20%. One reason is that real estate investment companies are grabbing up “distressed” properties at a fast and furious pace.
Right here in Hawaii, the Honolulu-based Tower company owns many hotels, resorts and condos. On their website, Tower promises to: “maximize investment returns by purchasing Hawaii high-yielding value-add projects” for “high net-worth investors.”
In February 2020, Tower’s collection grew to include 160 of the 200 units in Waiakea Villas. Some tenants were texted by Tower management in May 2021, alerting them to evictions due to future renovations.
CEO Ed Bushor reassured that vacant units would be available, but might cost more. How nice. When rents go up, possibly pushing tenants out, they face almost no affordable options.
According to Hawaii’s Appleseed Center, there are 29 affordable housing units for every 100 low-income renters. It’s likely Tower’s business plan will worsen this ratio.
For all their talk, politicians are not solving this crisis. In fact, those who silently stand by as Tower hikes rents and evicts tenants are complicit. The dirty truth is that affordable housing is not profitable to private investment companies like Tower, and many politicians know this.
Nonetheless, they float catchy ideas like “private/public partnerships” and solutions that require more building and more construction. But Waiakea Villas already has 160 affordable units. And now Tower’s business plans will make them unaffordable.
This situation highlights the tension between housing as an essential human need, and housing as a profit-making investment. Both cannot be true.
The investors seem to be winning.