Hawaii’s most popular morning radio host, Michael W. Perry, invited Grassroot Institute of Hawaii President Keli‘i Akina onto his “Perry & The Posse” show yesterday morning to talk about the Institute’s new report, “The ‘outsider theory of Hawaii’s housing crisis.”
After referencing Hawaii’s frustrating economic problems in general, he asked Akina point blank: “Are out-of-state buyers, especially foreigners, really driving Hawaii’s high home prices?” To which Akina answered: “Well, Mike, the data actually shows that people from the mainland and other countries are not a significant reason that our housing prices are going through the roof.”
He said,”It’s always a problem when our lawmakers wanna make policy based on hearsay or rumors. But you know, sometimes there’s a lot more than meets the eye. … That’s why we published our report. We want to identify the real cause so we’re not simply running down rabbit holes or marginalizing groups of people.”
To hear the entire interview 6-minute interview, click on the image below. A complete transcription is provided.
10-13-22 Keli’i Akina with Michael W. Perry / Perry & The Posse on KSSK radio
Michael W. Perry: KSSK Radio. I don’t have to tell you, we have terrible inflation numbers today. We have a lot of problems. America is in more debt than it’s ever been in and probably more than we can get out.
State of Hawaii’s got even worse problems. We’re a thousand doctors short. Can’t get any doctors to stay here to save their lives. I mean, literally, to saved their lives.
Our kids are having trouble making a living here, right? People leaving the state and there’s reasons for it. We are so darned expensive.
For a variety of reasons; there’s the Jones Act and there’s inflation and there’s state regulations and rules and, well, and the people over at Grassroot Institute have done studies on things like the Jones Act.
Well, one of the theories was that out-of-state buyers, especially foreigners, are driving up the cost of housing. Oh, that kind of makes sense, but is it true?
Well, let’s ask the man who runs Grassroot Institute, Dr. Keli‘i Akina. He’s the emperor over there. How are you doing this morning Keli’i?
Keli’i Akina: Doing great because I’m on the Michael W. Perry Show and aloha to you, Mike, and Posse.
Perry: And as everybody knows, housing prices through the roof. Everybody wants a solution, but I don’t know if there is one.
OK, they see the high rises going up in Kakaako and they think mainland and foreign buyers are buying up Hawaii; we should ban them.
Now, you took a look at that claim. You did a, you drilled down. Is that right or not?
Akina: Well, absolutely. You know, it’s always a problem when our lawmakers wanna make policy based on hearsay or rumors. But you know, sometimes there’s a lot more than meets the eye — and that’s why we do the research.
We wanted to look at the data. Does the data show that outside buyers are actually driving up Hawaii’s housing prices? So we looked into it and published the report that’s online now, and we show what the real cause of high housing prices is.
Perry: Spoiler alert. I already know the answer to this because I read the report. Okay. Tell us, are out-of-state buyers, foreigners and people, the rich people from Malibu and everything, causing skyrocketing prices for housing in Hawaii?
Akina: Well, Mike, the data actually shows that people from the mainland and other countries are not a significant reason that our housing prices are going through the roof.
You know, we looked at data from every county across the nation, and in Hawaii, there’s no relationship between sales to outside buyers and the price of homes. In fact, did you know that in Hawaii between 2010 and 2020, the percentage of outside buyers actually fell, and the percentage of local buyers increased, yet housing continues to go through the roof and in terms of its price.
Perry: So this whole thing about mainland and foreign buyers, that’s what, kind of a scapegoat thing? Gotta blame the outsider rather than blaming what’s really to blame. Is that kind of what’s going on?
Akina: That’s right, Mike. I think people who blame outside buyers are looking for an easy solution, a scapegoat, as you said. But you know, the fact is that I understand their concern that current prices are just unaffordable for most working families. That’s real. But that’s why we published our report. We want to identify the real cause so we’re not simply running down rabbit holes or marginalizing groups of people.
Perry: OK. I want you to go to the Grassroot Institute website. Kelii — we’ll give you that in just a little while to see this report — but can you summarize it for us? What actually is sending housing prices in Hawaii through the roof and has been for many years for the most part?
Akina: Mike, it’s what you’ve been saying on the radio and what we have been discovering through research at Grassroot: It’s government red tape and excessive regulations. That’s the major factor in the cost of housing in Hawaii.
And we are not alone in this conclusion. Hawaii has the strictest land and zoning use regulations in the country according to the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization.
Our heavy level of regulations has contributed to high housing costs more than anything else. This is something that is evident in the data itself.
So, well, you know, what are we gonna do about it? You know, that’s-that’s the important question, Mike.
We’re working with lawmakers across the state to cut red tape. We’re also looking for ways to make it easier and faster to get a building permit. A lot of people know how hard that is if you just simply wanna knock down a wall or add a bedroom.
It’s important to fill more multi-family housing and to reform the state Land Use Commission. We’ve got all of these solutions written down in another report on our website and we’d be glad to send it to anyone who goes to our website. That’s www.grassroot institute.org.
Perry: That’s Grassroot, singular, not the sixties rock band. Grassroot Institute dot — what is it, dot org?
Akina: That’s right. Grassroot institute.org.
Perry: And these, I gotta tell you, these people actually look into problems and they find solutions. Does the Legislature ever listen to you?
Akina: Oh, absolutely. In fact, a lot of times the best thing we can see happen at the Legislature is that they change their mind on doing something that is really not very great for us.
We wanna give some kudos to our legislators this last term. There was a whole slate of tax increases that were proposed by various legislators. Every one of them got defeated by people who called in to their legislators, who wrote letters and who stood with all of us who want to have a freer, more healthy economy in Hawaii.
Perry: Nice. Well, that’s actually, that’s actually nice to hear.
You folks wanna stand with the people who are standing for you? Grassrootinstitute.org. Thank you Dr. Akina. We appreciate it.
Akina: Mike, thanks for letting me come on the Posse. Aloha!