Rooted in Reason: Nurturing the Seeds of Liberty

Homeless in Hawaii by grassroothawaii
July 8, 2010, 2:58 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

By Paul Lazaro

Walk by Waikiki or take a late night trip downtown and you will immediately recognize that Hawaii has an increased number of residents who call the local park bench, the downtown alleyways, and Ala Moana Beach Park home. Homelessness has become an increased problem in Hawaii. In fact, according to the Institute of Human Services homelessness is up in Hawaii by more than ten percent in the last year. While most homeless are residents of Hawaii, an increasing number of homeless are mainlanders. Thus, we can classify homeless in Hawaii more generally (not necessarily exhaustively) into two categories: homeless residents, and homeless vacationers. This classification is crucial in determining approaches to solving the broader homelessness problem without burdening the taxpayer.

While many of Hawaii’s homeless residents are substance dependent and unwilling to find employment, an increasing number of homeless people are hardworking people who have found it increasingly difficult to find affordable housing. According to the Coldwell Banker HPI chart, a great indicator of a cities general housing cost, the median cost of a home in Honolulu is $712,500.00, not exactly a bargain. In regards to these high prices many say, “That’s the cost of living in paradise.” While this statement is comforting to those of us who pay too much for housing, it could not be further from the truth. Yes, we live in paradise, but the cost associated with Hawaii’s housing is not a result of demand, but of limited supply as a result of harmful land use laws. According to Cato Institute Senior Fellow Randall O’Toole, developers are restricted to building on only 5% of Hawaii. If the state government made it possible to build on more land we would see a greater supply of housing presumably precipitating a decline in housing costs.

Every year Hawaii is host to millions of tourists. Unfortunately, many of these tourists also happen to be homeless residents of other states who have bought one way tickets to the Aloha state. From the moment they land in Hawaii, they essentially become the responsibility of the state and its taxpayers. Hawaii’s homeless have access to free health care, food stamps, and homeless shelters for three dollars a day all at your expense. All of these perks provide great incentive for people with no intentions of self-sufficiency to migrate to Hawaii.

Overall, a recognition of the human condition is necessary in order to combat the homelessness problem. First, it’s imperative to recognize that new development is a necessary condition for the true development of affordable housing. Second, people respond positively to incentives, and if the state is artificially providing incentives that spur homelessness we should curb or eliminate those incentives, only then will we be on the road to finding a solution to the homelessness problem.


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