By Jay Fidell
On the heels of a very successful program on “APEC Means Business for Hawaii” last week, ThinkTech and the Hawaii Venture Capital Association will again collaborate to present “Housing in Hawaii: What’s holding it up” on March 23rd at the Plaza Club. This is another one you can’t afford to miss.
After Statehood, Hawaii built housing like it was going out of style. People like Herbert Horita were heroes for bringing the American dream to our people. But somewhere along the line, the quality and availability of housing turned south.
Case in point - young couples who spend their lives living their parents, never able to afford their own home. Case in point – shamelessly overcrowded tenement quality firetrap rentals that show up on the front page, time after time, with tragic deaths that should never have happened. Shades of the immigrant ghettos of the 19th century, certainly not of modern day Hawaii.
Housing has become one of the Hawaii’s toughest problems. To build a better economy, our workforce needs to have decent housing at decent prices. From shocking homelessness to the lack of meaningful neighborhoods, housing in Hawaii is in trouble, and getting worse, revealing perhaps other strictures in our society. We need to get together and drill down on impediments to planning and construction, and the complexities associated with land use and regulation, traffic and rail, engineering, energy, architecture, sociology, pricing, marketing and financing, if we are to provide better housing for our people.
Although to some these problems may seem like a brick wall or an immutable reality, there are those who firmly believe that with appropriate planning they can and will be resolved, leading us to better times and quality of island life.
Why is this discussion so important to entrepreneurs, investors and service providers? Because to build a tech economy, our workforce needs to have quality affordable housing, located near good schools and transportation. No question about it. But right now we don’t have enough of that kind of housing, either to keep our graduates here or to recruit tech workers from elsewhere. The result: We can’t keep or get the best people to build our tech industry.
Our panelists for this discussion will include many of the individuals involved in what has been happening: the land owners, planners, environmentalists, engineers, attorneys, developers, builders, legislators, analysts, realtors, policy makers and civic leaders. These panelists will tackle some tough questions:
• Is housing on a decline or just flatlined?
• What are the constraints?
• Is it time to 'drain the swamp'?
• How do we shape the 'hood'?
• Will our community be defined by the free market or neighborhood planning?
• What if we do nothing at all?
Housing in Hawaii may be one our most ambitious ThinkTech-HVCA programs in a long time. Here are some of the participating panelists and speakers:
• Marc Alexander (Governor’s Housing Coordinator)
• Ann Bouslog (Mikiko Corporation)
• Christine Camp (Avalon Development)
• Stanford Carr (Stanford Carr Development)
• David Callies (William S. Richardson School of Law)
• Rida Cabanilla (State House of Representative)
• Jenn Darrah (Harvard University)
• Donovan Dela Cruz (State Senate)
• Robert Harris (Sierra Club)
• Micah Kane (Kamehameha Schools)
• Billy Kanoi (Big Island Mayor)
• Ben Kudo (Land Use Attorney)
• Emilia Noordhoek (Sustainable Molokai)
• Panos Prevedouros (UH Engineering School)
• Peter Savio (Savio Realty)
• Lee Sichter (Belt Collins Hawaii)
• Michael Sklarz (Collateral Analytics)
• Cheryl Soon (SSFM International)
• John Wallenstrom (Forest City Hawaii)
• Henry Mochida (Henhaus Productions)
Filling out our star-studded cast, our moderators include well-known local journalists Steve Petranik (Hawaii Business Magazine), Howard Dicus (Hawaii News Now) and Alan Yonan (Honolulu StarAdvertiser). What a lineup!