Wednesday, January 04, 2017


If we wait for Hawaii to fix its housing crisis, Waikiki will freeze over first

Most discussions of housing policy operate on the assumption that, whether or not it has been successful, the state has tried to solve the housing question. That is, many accounts of housing politics are premised on the myth of the benevolent state. In brief, the myth is that government acts out of a primary concern for the welfare of all its citizens and that its policies represent an effort to find solutions to recognized social problems. If government efforts fall short of success, according to this narrative, it is only because of lack of knowledge, countervailing selfish interests, incompetence, or lack of courage.—
In Defense of Housing: The Politic of Crisis by David Madden and Peter Marcuse [Verso, see Amazon link]

by Larry Geller

Hawaii Governor David Ige has stopped renewing his emergency declaration on homelessness. It makes no difference. It made no difference. Hawaii, and the City and County of Honolulu, are no closer to building or developing the needed affordable housing units than they were before Ige’s action.

But what did we expect? As the pull-quote suggests, the interests of those in need of housing in the state are not what motivates government to provide it.

Madden and Marcuse go on in their chapter The Myths of Housing Policy:

The actual motivations for state action in the housing sector have more to do with maintaining the political and economic order than with solving the housing crisis. If the state were truly concerned with the best course of action to meet society’s dwelling needs and end residential oppression, housing history would look very different than it does.

Housing is not just about eliminating homelessness, which would make politicians, the tourist industry and our newspaper editors a bit happier. Housing is needed for everyone. Rents are out of sight and climbing. Young graduates find they have to leave the state to survive and prosper—and this is a society that values close family relationships.

Each year the numbers of homeless and near-homeless increase because there is simply no affordable shelter available.

Bottom line on this self-evident conclusion: the housing shortage has continued for more than a decade and is only getting worse. “If the state were truly concerned with the best course of action to meet society’s dwelling needs” something would have been done long ago. “Housing history would look very different than it does.”

So we cannot leave it to the governor to create yet more task forces or to the Honolulu city government which is beholden to development interests (that is, development for the rich and ultra-rich) for a solution.

One last quote from this book:

Historically, the state has used the housing system to preserve political stability and support the accumulation of private profit.

This is where we’re at, folks. It will be up to the people to push for affordable housing in Hawaii—we’re not going to get it as a gift.


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