State briefs for January 4

Kauai: Out-of-state buyers drove up housing prices

LIHUE, Kauai (AP) — An influx of out-of-state homebuyers and renters pushed up housing prices on the Hawaiian island of Kauai last year, officials said.


“Anecdotally, (they) appear to have significantly driven up home prices and rents, exacerbating an already-critical housing shortage,” Adam Roversi, the director of the county’s housing agency, told The Garden Island newspaper.

The median sale price of a single-family Kauai home jumped 57% in November from the same month in 2020 to $1.2 million, according to real estate firm Locations. Statewide, the median climbed 16%.

Kauai County Councilmember Luke Evslin agreed the influx of wealthy individuals looking to work remotely from new homes stands out as a key development in the housing crisis.

“If you’re working for Google, then you can afford to outbid anybody working on Kauai, for the most part,” Evslin said.

Higher home prices and rents have intensified the island’s labor shortage, said Nalani Brun, the director of the county’s Office of Economic Development.

She said many workers in the hospitality industry are from off-island, often recent high school or college graduates, seeking sun and adventure. They often share homes and pool resources to pay rent. But fewer of these homes are available, and those that remain have become unaffordable to low-income workers.

To help address the housing shortage, Evslin and Councilmember Bernard Carvahlo introduced a bill aimed at preventing developers from creating housing rules that stop homeowners from renting out privately owned space.

Evslin has also set his sights on vacant homes and short-term vacation rentals, arguing wealthy people from outside Kauai have “parked” money in local houses to take advantage of low property taxes.

He estimated one in eight Kauai homes sits vacant, having been purchased as an investment or second home.

Hawaii upholds order requiring Navy to drain fuel tanks

HONOLULU (AP) — Hawaii’s Department of Health on Monday upheld the governor’s order requiring the Navy to drain massive World War II-era fuel tanks after oil leaking from the aging facility contaminated Pearl Harbor’s tap water.

Marian Tsuji, the department’s deputy director, on Monday said she agreed with the conclusions of an official appointed by the department to review the facts of the case. She said she would adopt the official’s proposed findings as final, though would fix a typographical error.

The Navy didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on Tsuji’s decision. Hawaii law allows parties to appeal such decisions in the court system.

The department’s hearings officer for the case, Deputy Attorney General David Day, concluded the tanks were a “ticking time bomb” that threaten the water supply.

He said they posed “an imminent threat to human health and safety or the environment” and agreed with the governor’s order to defuel the tanks.

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