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December 2022 Email Update

The November median sales price for single-family homes was $1,149,500 (9.5% higher than November 2021) and for condos was $480,000 (4.0% lower than November 2021).  Higher interest rates continue to cool demand.  The number of single-family home sales was 48.2% lower and condos was 43.4% lower than last year.  Inventory continues to climb.  There is currently 2.2 months of single-family home inventory and 2.3 months of condo inventory.

The housing market shows more signs of cooling with national home prices dropping for the third straight month.  The median price has dropped 2.6% from June through September as rising mortgage rates make mortgages too expensive for some prospective buyers.   Buyers may see additional relief as the Federal Reserve announced that it will most likely raise rates by 0.5% versus the previous 0.75% increases after the last three sessions.  The 10-year Treasury dropped to 3.699% from 3.746% after the announcement.  Mortgage rates are typically set by adding a risk premium to the 10-year Treasury rate.

The Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) has determined that staff may have violated state procurement laws when awarding the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement (CNHA) the U.S. tourism contract worth more than $100 million.  The HTA may have to bid the contract for the third time delaying the decision for over two years.  The HTA called a special board meeting to discuss the issue and investigate a secret meeting with Governor Ige and the Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism.  The Hawaii visitor industry is protesting the secret meeting demanding transparency in the procurement process.

The City and County of Honolulu has hired Municipal Debt Collections to enforce fines levied by the Department of Planning and Permitting (DPP) for illegal vacation rental activity as defined by Ordinance 22-7.  Owners of illegal vacation rentals will be fined $10,000 per day and the city has dedicated seven DPP workers to catch violators.  The city will first issue a notice of violation where the owner has 30 days to correct the violation.  The city will then impose fines until the violation has been corrected.  The owner has 60 days to pay the fine or they will be turned over to collections.  The city will place a lien on the property if the fine has not been paid in full after 90 days.  Mayor Rick Blangiardi claims that the city is able to scan 60 vacation websites every day searching for violators.

The city stopped taking new applications after receiving 8,000 since temporarily reopening in the city’s drive to spend the remaining funds allocated by the federal government.  Stott Property Management, LLC has received confirmation that some tenants have received more funding while others are still waiting on a decision.

A recent software upgrade that can partially screen applications has been put in place allowing the existing Department of Planning and Permitting personnel to complete the more technical reviews.  The DPP permit backlog has shrunk to about 6,000 pending permits and recent streamlining efforts by the legislature should help move the permit approvals along. Currently it takes an average of 298 days to approve a residential building permit.

A North Shore development received special approval to build three residences on micropiles, high strength concrete bars descending 12 to 20 feet below to tie into the coral substrate.  The project will not have any projected impact on coastal erosion and will avoid flooding even if the sea level rises 3.2 feet.  A single-family home was demolished on the land in 2016.  The owners applied for a special management area permit and received approval with only one dissenting vote.  Maybe a common sense approach is developing.

Living at Pipeline - North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii

The Civil Beat reported the lack of voter enthusiasm and reduced in-person voting options resulted in a 10% drop in statewide voter participation.  Oahu had only two places to vote in person on election day, Kapolei and Honolulu Hale. The wait times at Honolulu Hale reached over an hour as the 7:00 pm deadline to vote approached.  Many voters failed to receive their ballots in the mail and others still preferred to vote “old school.”  10,000 people voted in person versus the 6,600 that cast ballots at the polls two years ago.  As expected, Dr. Josh Green won the gubernatorial race receiving 65% of the votes.  Republicans did flip two races where the incumbents were charged with drunk driving and had their charges dropped on technicalities.  The voters in those two districts decided to hold their representatives accountable for their behavior.

In typical bureaucratic behavior, the U.S. Navy is discussing with federal officials on how much they will participate in a roundtable discussion convened by the state and federal environmental regulators.  According to the regional commander, “defense officials in Washington, D.C., are working out details about what level of participation there will be from the Navy.”  Work on the plan to chart fuel remediation contamination has been stalled for the past couple of months.

The Honolulu Authority of Rapid Transportation does not have a solution for the 21 “Hammerhead” cracks along the rail route.  13 of the cracks can be filled with epoxy to keep out moisture and eight require more extensive repairs.  The limited rail service will be pushed out until the repairs have been approved and executed.

Pacific Business News’ Kam Napier highlighted the latest rule allowing Hawaiian Electric Company to charge the public higher rates during peak electricity usage from 5:00 to 9:00 pm.  He argues that the higher rates punish those working-class families who can’t shift their electricity usage to earlier in the day because they are at work.  The shift in peak usage to later in the day is a result of the state Public Utilities Commission (PUC) focus on adding solar energy to the islands renewable energy capacity.

The City and County of Honolulu is running out of time to name its new landfill location as the Board of Water Supply (BWS) rejects the six sites identified by the city.  All six sites are located above Oahu’s aquifer system that has become a source of increased sensitivity due to the U.S. Navy’s jet fuel contamination of the Red Hill Shaft.  The city does have the option of appealing and contends that the new landfills double liner design will protect the aquifer below from chemical contamination.

An Alaska Mokulele partnership has added a third interisland solution for mainland visitors joining Hawaiian and Southwest Airlines.  The new agreement starts in 2023 and is about booking convenience for Alaska Airline customers.  The new partnership will offer 10 interisland flights daily to Kapalua, Hana, Hilo, Waimea, and Kohala.  There are existing Mokulele flights to Molokai and Lanai.

Hawaii’s healthcare worker shortage continues to grow.  The chronic shortage started long before the COVID-19 pandemic and has grown to 3,873 job openings for nurses and nurse aids.  There are hundreds more job openings for medical assistants, personal care assistants, and phlebotomists (people who collect blood samples).

Moana Loa erupted for the first time since 1984 at about 11:30 on 11/27/2022 providing spectacular views of lava fountaining in a growing summit lake.  The vents are on a level part of the mountain and the lava is headed towards Hilo.  Scientists describe the path as the best possible route placing Hilo far from danger.  If it continues, the lava could take a week before hitting the outskirts of Hilo.  The eruption was accompanied by earthquakes, the largest measuring 4.2 on the Richter Scale.  Here is a link to drone footage over the flow.

Mauna Loa eruption: Aerial video show lava, ash spewing from Hawaii volcano

The eruption has invited mischief.  An unknown individual planted an explosive device near the old Saddle Road and police closed off viewing of the eruption for five hours while neutralizing the device and concluding their investigation.  The lava continues to creep toward the Saddle Road during the seventh day of the eruption.

1,100 gallons of fire suppressant foam spilled at the Navy’s Red Hill fuel facility on 11/29/2022.  The spill is yet another contamination related event as the Navy struggles to drain the fuel tanks without causing more problems.

The University of Hawaii Wahine Volleyball (UH) team lost to the Louisiana State University Tigers (KSU) in the first round of the NCAA tournament.  UH entered the tournament seeded 8th and lost three sets to one to LSU despite LSU’s 16-win, 14-loss record.  The loss follows a pattern of UH failing to beat the top Division One teams after dominating the Big West Conference.

Environmental groups and the state are working towards reclaiming a 132,000 acre of state-owned land leased to the U.S. Army serving as a live artillery training ground.  The land sits between Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea and connects two federally owned training sites.  The lease expires in 2029 and the U.S. Army is trying to renew it.  The environmental impact statement (EIS) has gaps concerning pollution concerns and the type of live-fire activities taking place in the future.  The area known as Pohakuloa, supported several native plants and biologists have collected seeds in hopes of reintroducing them to the area.  The greatest threats to native species in the area come from invasive plants and animals like wild goats and sheep that have been allowed to run rampant.  The state hopes to reverse these negative trends if it ends the lease with the U.S. Army.

A preservation group, Friends of the Haiku Stairs, is trying to block the removal of the stairs, known as the Stairway to Heaven, and build support to reopen the popular hike.  The group would like to resurrect the city’s plan to provide legal access to the stairs and eventually provide funds to maintain the stairs.  The removal was scheduled to be completed by the end of this year and cost $1.3 million to remove by helicopter.  The project is expected to begin in 2023.  Proponents of the stairs argue that it will cost much more to remove, the removal will cause environmental damage, and hikers will continue to access the summit by the more dangerous remaining path or summit hike from Moanalua.

Hawaii Stairway to Heaven Hike GoPro Drone (Haiku Stairs)

The Nature Conservancy is offering a $2 million policy that will cover reef repairs due to Hurricanes or powerful Tropical Storms.  The Nature Conservancy’s plan follows the world’s first reef insurance for the Mexican coastal state of Quintana Roo.  The policy will be triggered by wind speeds of 57 mph within the proximity of Hawaii’s reefs.

Hawaii spinner dolphins are at risk of disease by the same bacteria threatening the Hawaii monk seal, Toxoplasmosis.  Feral cats host the bacteria, and the eggs are spread by the cat’s feces.  The bacteria can survive up to two years in the environment and are carried to the ocean by rainwater.  Two dolphins have been killed by Toxoplasmosis over the past decade and the disease has been found in 60 dolphins over the past thirty years.

Drone studies conducted by researchers have discovered that sand is moving from one end of Waikiki beach to another versus moving out to sea as initially suspected.  The information will be used for further beach management decisions.

Chainsaw drone could be the title of another B-rate horror flick, is a tool researchers are using to gain a closeup view of rapid Ohia death.  The drone grasps a branch of a tree and uses a circular saw to remove a branch for retrieval.  The scientists test the branch for fungal infection and map trees spreading the infection.  Rapid Ohia death is caused by two fungal infections of which there is no known cure.

The Maui Ocean Center proposed a $12 million building to house a sea turtle hospital, coral nursery, research laboratory, and classrooms on the aquarium’s existing property.  The Maui City Council expressed support for the plan and referred a zoning change proposal to the Maui Council Planning Commission.  The Maui Ocean Marine Institute, the organization that would move into the building, has been working out of shipping containers for the past six years.

Maui Ocean Center (The Aquarium Of Hawaii) Tour & Review with The Legend

A battle pitting the little guy against the big guy comes in the form of a pig farmer who has been in business for twenty-two years and the new buyer of the property who shut off the water line to the piggery causing over 100 pigs to die.  The farmer is asking the state to help save the remaining pigs after the Hawaii Supreme Court rejected his petition.  The new buyer claims the lease is invalid because it represents a sublease of the land despite the lease being between the previous owner and the farmer.  State law stipulates that lease contracts are superior to the sale of property and the lease should remain in effect.  The Hawaii Supreme Court denied the request stating that the farmer had other means to support his claim.  

We often talk to owners about moving back into their rental property to claim the home exemption.  The rules have changed, and this video gives a bit more information regarding the benefit.

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