The US Census showed a large interstate migration from July 2021 until July 2022. While some states saw significant gains, such as Florida with 1.9%, Hawaii was at the opposite end of that spectrum. Hawaii lost .5% of its population during the year, although some states, like New York, lost even more. People moved to lower-cost places, which spells big trouble for Hawaii tourism that relies on these salaried and hourly workers.
Why did Hawaii lose its population last year?
In a word, it’s simple, the cost of living is too high. Hawaii has some of the highest costs of living anywhere. We see it living here; you experience it traveling here. The high cost of housing, in particular, as it has risen tremendously, helped create a severe travel labor shortage. It has become so serious in the way it is impacting travel businesses.
Some local businesses have taken to housing their employees and become unintentional landlords. If not, employees have no place they can afford and would otherwise leave Hawaii. Or their business would fold.
Hawaii travel has long used both migrant labor and those who attempt to move to Hawaii. That’s long provided a beneficial supplement to Hawaii’s workforce, especially for jobs in the tourism industry.
The trend towards unaffordability for Hawaii workers was already looming.
Even before Covid, we could see this coming. It hasn’t been unusual for a travel industry worker in Hawaii to work up to three different jobs and then be in shared housing to afford a place to stay. This has been an evolving problem for decades. Editor Rob recalls visiting a friend who was paying more than $2,000 per month to live in someone’s garage.
The new governor and legislators repeatedly say that more affordable housing for residents is a priority even as prices continue to rise. Increasing supply is a key factor, but that won’t come easily. And as new housing units are needed, the cost of building housing, including materials, is extraordinary.
Recently Maui’s Na Hale O Maui housing nonprofit also said that Hawaii has “the most regulations and hoops that you have to jump through to provide housing.” Currently, the building of affordable housing is extremely slow. Construction rates are less than 10% of what they were 50 years ago when housing was far more accessible.
Rents from $2,000 per month if you can only find them.
Even then, it is extremely hard to find accommodation. Supply is virtually nonexistent, while there is incredible demand, creating a condition where hospitality workers can’t afford to live here.