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State briefs for October 9

Oahu buyers paying more for larger houses during pandemic

HONOLULU — Demand for bigger homes, reduced inventory and near historic low interest rates have helped Oahu’s housing market set a price record for a second straight month.

The median sale price for previously owned single-family homes rose to $880,000 in September.

A Honolulu Board of Realtors report said the increased price point Tuesday was 13% above the high figure of $777,000 a year ago.

The previous record mark set in August was $839,000, which was $4,000 above the high point of $835,000 in July 2019.

September sales volume for single-family homes of more than 2,000 square feet (186 square meters) of living space increased 38% over the same month last year, the realtor report said.

There were 39% more sales of homes priced between $700,000 and $1.49 million, and 43% additional sales of homes of over $1.5 million. Sales volume dropped 36% for homes under $700,000.

The number of single-family home sales on Oahu rose 13% to 391 last month from 347 a year earlier.

Some real estate agents said extended government emergency orders aimed at containing the spread of the coronavirus have caused many people to spend more time living and working at home, prompting purchases of larger accommodations.

“Ultimately, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed how buyers think about purchasing a home, causing them to reevaluate their housing goals and priorities,” Tricia Nekota, president of the real estate agent trade association, said in a statement.

Philip Garboden, a University of Hawaii professor of affordable housing economics, policy and planning, said he suspects low interest rates enable higher-income households to buy bigger and more expensive homes.

People in the bottom half of the market have been hardest hit by the recession and are not buying as many moderately priced homes, Garboden said.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

Maui County affordable housing panel blocks proposed project

WAILUKU, Maui — A proposed housing project criticized for setting prices too high has been rejected by the Maui County Council Affordable Housing Committee.

The panel voted 5-4 Monday against the development plan in Olowalu in northwest Maui.

Landowner Peter Martin sought to develop 40 homes and 19 vacant lots for the project named Lihauula near Honoapiilani Highway.

Project supporters said workforce housing is sorely needed in west Maui, while opponents said the project is not affordable enough, threatens the health of Olowalu’s reef and impacts plans for a realignment of the highway.

The project plans included 40 three- and four-bedroom homes for residents earning between 80% and 140% of the area’s medium income, with maximum sale prices of $506,400 to $815,235.

The nine vacant lots of 10,000 square feet (929 square meters) each would be sold for rates between $250,000 and $350,000, while 10 vacant lots would be sold for rates between $350,000 and $500,000.

Lihauula LLC Project Manager Kyle Ginoza said the vote against the project denies families the opportunity to live in Olowalu.

“We truly believed that offering this project consisting of over two-thirds workforce homes without government grants or funding is admirable,” Ginoza said.

Ginoza and landowner Martin said Lihauula consists of 68% affordable housing.

Council Member Mike Molina, who voted against the project, criticized the price.

“$500,000? That’s unrealistic,” Molina said. “We have recently approved projects with low-end affordability in the $300,000 range.”

Council Chairwoman Alice Lee voted in favor of the project and said confusion surrounds affordable housing prices, where higher-end homes help support those on the lower-end of the price scale.

“A lot of times people forget that affordable housing is really subsidized housing, housing that was not meant to be free,” Lee said.
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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