RCAC issues top 10 list of workers who can't afford a home in Hawai’i

Surprising Results Spotlight the Lack of Affordable Homes in the Aloha State

November 13, 2006

West Sacramento, Calif. — Rural Community Assistance Corporation (RCAC) — a nonprofit organization designated as a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) — recently released its top 10 list of Workers in Hawai’i Who Can’t Afford a Home. The list, based on numbers provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_hi.htm#b00-0000), combats obsolete stereotypes that undermine new, affordable-home developments and finds an unexpected addition to the ranks of those already priced out of homeownership: Hawai’i workers.
Affordable homes on Oahu are becoming increasingly difficult to find. The housing boom of 2005 drastically improved the net worth of many homeowners. However, it also pushed a record number of Hawai’i workers into the already huge group that can’t afford to buy a home. According to the Honolulu Board of Realtors (http://www.hicentral.com/stat-pr.asp), the median home on Oahu costs $645,000 (as of Oct. 2006). The situation is equally as bad on Maui where, according to the Realtors Association of Maui (http://www.mauiboard.com/download_files/file_1162949648.pdf), the median home price in October 2006 was $647,000. In order to qualify to purchase an average home, a Hawai’i worker must earn an annual income of more than $130,000.
“RCAC has worked to help build and finance affordable housing for more than 25 years, so it was no surprise to us that many Americans are unable to purchase their piece of the American Dream,” said William French, RCAC’s chief executive officer. “What was startling, however, was the increased number of hard-working Hawai’i residents — with what are considered good paying jobs — who cannot currently qualify to own a home in the state.”
Denise Boswell and Kevin Carney, Housing Hawai’i’s executive director and board president respectively, concurred.
"To put this in perspective," said Boswell, "when most Hawaii residents try to purchase a home, they're faced with the equivalent of going grocery shopping and only finding groceries at champagne and caviar prices."
Carney agreed.
“There simply isn’t enough variety in Hawai’i in terms of prices and types of homes,” he said. As consumers, we demand variety and choice everywhere else and it’s time we fight for variety and choice when it comes to one of our most basic needs – having a safe, stable home.”
The top 10 workers in Hawai’i who cannot qualify to purchase a home on Oahu include:
10) Fast-Food Workers — Yes, it’s possible for fast-food workers to own a home in Hawai’i if parents who work in the fast-food industry have six children who also work in fast-food industry. Only then would the combined family income qualify them to purchase a home in Hawai’i. In fact, a fast-food worker living alone cannot meet the state’s average apartment rental costs, which, for a two-bedroom apartment is more than $1,000/month requiring a wage of nearly $20 an hour (much higher wage rates than those earned in the fast-food industry.). Mean annual wage for a fast-food worker in Hawai’i? $16,370
9) Cashiers — Of course, few would expect that an average cashier could afford to own their own piece of the American dream, but few may realize that it would take a group of seven cashiers pooling their resources to afford one, single-family Hawai’i home. Mean annual wage for a cashier in Hawai’i? $18,980
8) Building Maintenance Workers — They are no longer known as “janitors,” but that doesn’t help the average maintenance worker when it comes to home-buying. In fact, like cashiers and many other service workers, because so few benefits are generally included with their jobs, homebuying power is even lower than their hard-earned salaries might indicate. Mean annual wage for a maintenance worker on The Islands? $24,790
7) Administrative Assistants — They work in impressive offices, provide invaluable services to their higher-earning (often home-owning) bosses, but are priced out of the home-buying market by a gap of tens of thousands of dollars in annual income. Mean annual wage for an administrative assistant in Hawai’i? $30,510
6) Truck Drivers — You’ve seen the bumper stickers on the back of big rigs, “Truck Drivers Keep America Moving.” And apparently, Hawai’i keeps truck drivers moving…from house to house as they continually rent because they are financially unable to buy a home. Mean annual wage for a truck driver in Hawai’i? $36,820
5) Firefighters — They’re heroes, everyone acknowledges that. Public servants who go above and beyond the call of duty as part of their job description, firefighters too need affordable homes. Mean annual wage for a firefighter in Hawai’i? $42,470
4) Teachers — College-educated and responsible for the futures of Hawai’i’s children, teachers remain in dire need of affordable homes. The good news? Two teachers married to each other can afford to purchase a home in Hawai’i – if one takes an additional part-time job. Mean annual wage (which is much higher than the average starting wage) for a teacher in Hawai’i? $45,940 (This number is for secondary school teachers. Elementary school teachers make less, approximately $41,640)
3) Police Officers — They put their lives on the line every day they put on their badge. They serve and protect, and some do own homes in Hawai’i; however, in many cases, homeownership is made possible because a spouse also works or they put in many, many hours of overtime. Police officers too need affordable homes. Mean annual wage for a police officer in Hawai’i? $42,730
2) Construction Workers — There is a rumor going ‘round that construction workers are wellpaid for their incredibly hard work. And, when compared to fast-food workers — or any of those employed in occupations numbered 10 through six on this list — they are. However, construction workers are still in desperate need of affordable homes. Mean annual wage for a construction worker in Hawai’i? $48,760
1) Nurses — They care for us when we are at our most vulnerable … when we are most in need. Unfortunately, the nursing shortage is currently hitting Hawai’i hard — but the dilemma remains, how to recruit nurses to the state when their annual salaries, which many would consider quite generous won’t allow them to purchase even an average priced home? Mean annual wage for a nurse in Hawai’i? $65,490
Much work is needed to solve the affordable-home crisis in Hawai’i, and RCAC is helping through its loan fund, which finances many affordable home projects including self-help homes, farm worker homes, affordable apartment complexes, senior citizen residences and other innovative developments.
About RCAC — RCAC is headquartered in West Sacramento, Calif., and serves 13 Western states. RCAC is a nonprofit agency providing technical assistance and training to rural communities seeking to develop a wide range of local services including community facilities, affordable housing and water treatment facilities. RCAC regularly makes loans to nonprofit affordable home building organizations as well as small communities in need of affordable housing. For more information on RCAC’s Loan Fund products visit the organization’s website at www.rcac.org.
About Housing Hawai’i — Housing Hawai'i is a broad coalition of public, private, and nonprofit organizations dedicated to creating, preserving, and supporting affordable housing through advocacy, education, and development. Housing Hawai'i’s membership includes 115 members who represent the Hawai'i State Government and the county governments of Honolulu, Hawai'i, Maui, and Kaua'i; nonprofits; financial institutions; for profit developers, and trade associations. Rural Community Assistance Corporation is the facilitator. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Office Community Planning and Development in Honolulu provides guidance on its programs. U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development Office also provides guidance on its programs. Visit the organization’s website at www.hawaiihousing.org.