Isles residents support adding land, zoning reform to increase housing

Almost 1,000 people statewide express broad support for policies that could increase housing inventory in Hawaii and help ease high prices


HONOLULU, Oct. 26, 2021 >> When Grassroot Institute of Hawaii President Keli‘i Akina wrote in his weekly column this past Saturday that “most of us” in Hawaii agree there is not enough housing in Hawaii, he wasn’t imagining things.

Does Hawaii need more housing? 

According to a new survey conducted for the institute between Aug. 16 and Sept. 7 by Anthology, one of Hawaii’s leading market research companies, 87% of almost 1,000 Hawaii residents statewide responded “Yes” when asked, “Does Hawaii need more housing?” 

By islands, the “Yes” responses were 86% on Oahu, 91% on Hawaii Island, 86% in Maui County and 89% on Kauai.

Perhaps to no one’s surprise, such mass agreement was even greater when the residents were asked about Hawaii’s housing costs.

Is the cost of housing in Hawaii too expensive?

Asked, “Is the cost of housing in Hawaii too expensive?” virtually everyone — 97% overall — said “Yes.” Agreement in Maui County reached 99%, followed by 98% on Oahu and Kauai, and 89% on Hawaii Island.

What in your opinion contributes to the high cost of housing?

Respondents who said “Yes” were then asked, “What in your opinion contributes to the high cost of housing?” based on a list of possible answers provided to them. Among the responses:

>> 57% selected “High cost of building materials for new homes” — 52% on Oahu versus 69% on the Neighbor Islands.

>> 51% blamed “Low housing inventory,” with the responses virtually identical on Oahu and the Neighbor Islands.

>> More than a third, 35%, chose “Not enough land zoned for residential housing” — 38% on Oahu versus 28% on the Neighbor Islands.

>> 35% selected “High cost of labor/skilled labor,” again with the responses virtually identical on Oahu and the Neighbor Islands.

More land for housing?

Finally, those taking part in the research were presented the following statement and question:

“Currently, about 5% of all land in Hawaii is allocated for urban and residential use. Would you support increasing that amount by maybe 1 or 2 percentage points to 6% or 7%?”

The responses heavily favored the proposal. Overall, 45% “strongly” supported the idea and 42% “somewhat” supported it, for a total of 87%.

By islands, Oahu was 47% “strongly” and 39% “somewhat” supportive, for a total of 86%; Hawaii Island, 37% and 57%, for a total of 94%; Maui County, 39% and 46%, for a total of 85%; and Kauai, 47% and 39%, for a total of 86%.

The takeaway

Akina said the results of this last question were especially welcome, since the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii has been advocating for years that the state allocate more land for residential development.

“An increase of just 1 or 2 percentage points from the low base of 5% would equal a 20 to 40% increase, respectively,” Akina said. “I am pleased to know that most Hawaii residents support our policymakers taking such a step to relieve our lamentable housing crisis.”

Akina also praised the results of the question about zoning.

“More than a third of the respondents agreed that there is not enough land in Hawaii zoned for housing, and they are right,” he said. “As I already mentioned, urban land has been limited to just 5% of the entire state, while strict zoning laws constrain better use of that 5% of land already zoned urban. If you combine adding slightly more land with liberalizing the zoning rules on land already designated urban, we could see impressive improvement toward resolving our housing crisis.”

For more information about these responses by demographic segment — age, gender, ethnicity, household income, political party affiliation, political engagement, voter registration, primary residence, union affiliation, education and more — click on the button below or go here.

The methodology

Utilizing best practices in sampling design, Anthology leveraged a mixed-mode methodology for the survey, which included both phone and online responses. A number of sample sources were used to achieve a representative sample of Hawaii residents, including a high proportion of voters.

The margin of error for the sample size of n=933 is plus or minus 3.21 percentage points, with a 95% confidence level.

Previously reported results

As reported by the institute on Oct. 20, this same survey found that a substantial majority of Hawaii residents think they are paying too much in taxes and would like to see them lowered. For more information about those results, please go here.

On Oct. 21, the institute revealed that 63% of Hawaii residents volunteered “COVID/vaccination issues” when asked about what they consider their one or two most pressing community concerns.

Other volunteered responses included homelessness, 24%; the economy and Hawaii’s high cost of living, 18%; crime, 14%; the high cost and availability of housing, 14%; and more.

To read more about those results, please go here.

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