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Hawaii Wrap-Up: NHC on EAH

As the sun rose over Waikiki Tuesday, NHC and National Association of REALTORS hosted their final Bring Workers Home forum of 2010.

More than 90 participants from over 14 states gathered to learn about housing affordability and employer-assisted housing. A hot topic was Hawaii’s circumstances as an expensive, global housing market with a tourism-based economy that does not provide many high-paying jobs. In fact, according to James Hardway of the Hawaii Workforce Development Council, most of the top 20 occupations in Hawaii fall below 80 percent of the area median income and qualify for housing assistance through the Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corporation. The Center for Housing Policy’s Paycheck to Paycheck database further illustrates the severe housing cost burdens in the state.

In short, Hawaii has a severe mismatch between the jobs available on the islands and the housing stock. Land use regulations and a lack of transit and other infrastructure further hinder the development of local affordable housing options.

Employer-assisted housing is a truly viable solution here, as demonstrated by several speakers from other tourist destinations. Connie Ealey from Funding Partners in Colorado and Sharon Kerrigan from South Tahoe Association of REALTORS both spoke about successfully using EAH programs to bridge the housing affordability gap in high-end resort communities.

Carol Marx, a Bank of Hawaii senior vice president, an NHC member, spoke on an afternoon panel about the financing solutions the bank offers to employers in the islands, and how productive partnerships make for winning affordability solutions. Other speakers from local advocacy organizations, developers and banks offered their own thoughts on what’s needed to bridge the gap between jobs and homes: education about what affordable housing is and means, smarter land use regulations, better jobs and increased engagement of local employers.

Visit NHC’s website for additional materials including PowerPoint presentations from the featured speakers.

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