November 2021 Email Update
The October median price for single-family homes was $1,000,000 (15.6% higher than October 2020) and for condos was $500,000 (13.8% higher than October 2020). Prices may be reaching a point where affordability limits any future increase if the last three months are any guide. The median price is hovering at the records set in August and have not risen any further. Stott Real Estate, Inc. has recently seen more price reductions on some aggressively priced properties. Asking price is starting to matter even though the supply of both single-family homes and condos are near record lows. The lack of inventory is just limiting the number of sales every month resulting in more frustrated buyers who cannot afford pricier homes. There is only 1.1 months or single-family home inventory and only 1.8 months of condo inventory.
Effective November 6th, landlords can start the eviction process for tenants that are two or more months behind in rent. The local news has highlighted that there has not been a surge of evictions because there were few tenants that owed more than three months of past due rent. Stott Property Management, LLC (Stott PM) manages about 380 accounts and has only completed one eviction of a tenant more than four months behind in rent and recently completed the state required mediation of a tenant more than three months behind in rent. The remainder of tenants owing back rent owe less than three months of back rent. Stott PM is currently working with a few more landlords now that they can gain possession from struggling tenants. The number of evictions will start accelerating if a similar percentage of tenants statewide owe two months of back rent or less. A number of Hawaii investment property owners are ready to abandon Hawaii’s rental market after experiencing Governor David Ige’s disregard for their economic struggles.
Governor Ige announced that the state welcomes domestic vaccinated visitors effective November 1st and international visitors in accordance to federal guidelines on November 8th. The visitor industry has cautiously welcomed Ige’s announcement, however, they have pointed out that Mexico and other tropical designations are outperforming Hawaii because they do not have inconsistent and confusing social distancing restrictions. The CEO of Pleasant Holidays stated, “people want to enjoy themselves when they are on vacation. It’s still confusing in Hawaii. They don’t know if they will be able to do the things that they want to do once they get there.” One individual recently called Tim and stated that he was ready to sell his Waikiki condo because he was allowed to have more fun in Mexico and the Caribbean. He was “just sick of Hawaii’s ridiculous rules.”
Mayor Rick Blangiardi loosened capacity restrictions for indoor and outdoor events effective November 3rd, yet Honolulu and Hawaii continue to lag behind the rest of the country reopening local events and services. Large indoor and outdoor “seated” events (football games, concerts, etc.) can be held at full capacity provided that all attendees show proof of vaccination, wear masks, and the venue only serves water. “Interactive” events (weddings, funerals, etc.) are limited to 50% capacity up to 150 people for indoor events and up to 500 people for outdoor events provided all attendees are vaccinated. Food and drink may be served at these “interactive” events. Unfortunately, the governor and mayor still will not allow businesses and individuals to decide how to navigate the “new normal” resulting in a delayed economic recovery. Tim recently returned from Scottsdale, AZ while attending a national tennis tournament and witnessed a community where individuals and businesses are allowed to make their own decisions. Target still required all customers to wear masks, Einstein Brothers Bagels requested customers wear masks when they were not seated, and some stores and restaurants had no mask requirements. Some customers decided to wear masks when there were no mask requirements, and some people may have decided to only visit establishments where they felt safe. It was refreshing to see people and companies allowed to make their own decisions.
In a bit of irony, the Honolulu Star Advertiser’s Christine Donnelly, the Kokua Line columnist, pointed out that the people fortunate enough to afford the enclosed luxury boxes at the University of Hawaii football home game will be able to consume food and drink while the not so fortunate people in the open-air stands may only drink water. Apparently, the luxury suites can be treated as restaurants allowing the university to sidestep the large-seated event restrictions even though COVID-19 is known to spread in enclosed environments and transmission outdoors has been extremely rare. Here's a video from KHON2 News about what's happening with business owners and UH football.
Governor Ige, in response to mounting resistance to his pandemic foot dragging, has announced that isle businesses may operate at full capacity provided they keep different groups six feet apart. He apparently has not visited many restaurants, particularly those with booths, since his six-foot requirement still prevents most restaurants from operating at full capacity. A restaurant manager demonstrated in a Honolulu Star Advertiser photo how his establishment would still be limited to 50% capacity due to the required six foot spacing. Mayor Blangiardi mentioned he will encourage the governor to ease the requirement further because it hurts smaller restaurants and bars. Starting November 12th, Ige has stated that outdoor activities at restaurants, bars, and other establishments will no longer be subject to social distancing restrictions. Indoor activities will still be subjected to those restrictions.
The governor’s and mayor’s arbitrary capacity restrictions hit employees serving the visitor industry particularly hard as the federal government’s pandemic support programs end. The Honolulu Star Advertiser highlighted how an Ala Moana Hotel banquet captain had to drain her savings to pay for her family’s health insurance because she did not work enough hours in September to qualify for the hotel’s insurance plan. She may have to tap her 401k next to support her family.
A Honolulu Civil Beat article spells out a major reason for Governor Ige’s decision to extend his social distancing requirements and maintain some of the strictest restrictions on travel, dining, sporting events, and gatherings. The state’s chronic shortage of nurses grew significantly worse during the pandemic. Almost 5,000 nurses left the field between 2019 to 2021, shrinking the number of nurses from 33,410 to 28,548. Hawaii does not sufficiently fund the state’s nursing schools and despite thousands of young people interested in nursing, less than one-half of the qualified applicants were admitted in 2021. 1,393 people were deemed qualified, yet only 636 were admitted for instruction. Only 24 of 94 qualified applicants were admitted to the University of Hawaii (UH) Maui College. Despite the crisis, UH has a hiring freeze in place and cannot hire additional nursing instructors.
The Hawaii Supreme Court struck down a controversial legislative tactic coined “gut and replace” in early November. The term applies to a common legislative practice of deleting a bill’s contents after it has gone through the three required hearings and replaced with unrelated legislation. The tactic was recently applied this past April when a bill associated with an aerospace matter was suddenly replaced with new language that eliminated the Hawaii Tourism Authority’s annual tax allocation and allowed counties to impose an additional 3% to Hawaii’s Transient Accommodation Tax on visitors.
The state Department of Health’s new 160-bed psychiatric facility has sat empty for the past five months because the Department of Health and Hawaii Government Employee Association (HGEA), the state’s employees’ union, disagree on staffing requirements and procedures for the new facility. A consultant has been hired to help resolve the impasse.
Honolulu’s Department of Planning and Permitting (DPP) is once again delaying needed infrastructure. This time, the bureaucracy’s red tape is miring Hawaiian Electric’s (HECO) Battery Bonus program where participants will receive one-time cash payments of $850 per kilowatt up to $4,250 for five kilowatts of battery storage to existing rooftop solar systems that will export energy to the grid during peak evening hours. The extra battery storage is needed when Oahu’s coal plant is retired in September. Contractors dropping off permit applications were greeted by a sign that read the building permit process is backlogged by eight weeks and payments are behind thirteen days. Solar companies have fielded thousands of phone calls from interested people yet only 31 applications were approved in August and 143 applications were approved in September. The Hawaii Solar Energy Association wrote a letter dated September 29 to Mayor Blangiardi stating that rolling blackouts will occur if the continued delays result in insufficiently available backup power when the coal plant retires.
The Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) has been named as one of the U.S. Government’s top funding priorities along with its cousin, the Giant Magellan Telescope, planned for construction in Chile. That funding may not be of any use unless the state can resolve the construction impasse with Native Hawaiian protestors who do not ever want TMT to be built on Mauna Kea’s summit. If an October 19th march ending at University of Hawaii (UH) president’s home by Mauna Kea’s “protectors” is any guide, then all parties will not agree to allow TMT’s construction.
Hawaii scientists recently discovered an “infant planet” near a distant star from Mauna Kea’s summit using the Subaru Telescope. The planet was found because it is so young that it is essentially molten lava and puts out enough heat and light to be seen next to the star it orbits. The planet and star were found in the Taurus Cloud, considered a stellar “nursery” by scientists. The planet’s current name is 2M0437b. We can only hope that the scientists come up with a cool Hawaiian name like the black hole named Powehi.
Volunteers who dedicated thousands of labor hours and hauled more than 600,000 pounds of material up Koko Crater Trail’s incline (Stairmaster from Hell) repaired the final step more than 1,000 feet up. Kokonut Koalition members lifted sandbags, buckets of gravel, lumber, and hardware over 10 months to complete a project that was expected to take two to three years. Maybe the coalition can tackle Honolulu’s rail project next.
The UH Rainbow Warriors have suffered some disappointing losses and have fallen to 3-5 with three games remaining. One bright note was that the city and state lifted capacity constraints and fans could attend seats permitting. About 5,000 fans showed up for UH’s game against #25 ranked San Diego State. UH lost as time expired, 17-10. The UH Wahine Volleyball team stands alone at the top of the Big West Conference with a conference record of 13-1.
Leeward Community College’s (LCC) culinary arts program launched its first-ever Thanksgiving grab-n-go fundraising event. The cost of a six-person meal is $250 and the menu includes a whole roast turkey, gravy, madeira glazed ham with pineapple & lilikoi sauce, sauteed green beans with bacon & toasted almonds, citrus cranberry sauce, sweet & savory mashed potatoes, ube butter rolls, and kabocha pumpkin pie topped with Italian meringue. This could be a great option if you are kitchen challenged like Tim and/or visiting friends and want “leftovers” after the feast. LCC is accepting pre-sale orders through November 17th through the Eventbrite service:
A documentary about Duke Kahanamoku will premiere at the Hawaii International Film Festival. The 90-minute film covers the life of the father of modern-day surfing, a five-time Olympic medalist in swimming, and saved many people’s lives before professional lifeguards existed. Below is a link to the trailer.
Tim and Tracey took advantage of Hanauma Bay’s new admittance policy for residents on November 3rd. Hawaii residents do not have to register and may visit the nature preserve free of charge between 7:00 am and 9:00 am Wednesday through Sunday (Hanauma Bay is closed Monday and Tuesday). They had not visited the bay for years and the fish did not disappoint. Here is a video and photos taken during their swim.
Hawaii’s geographical isolation has resulted in about 100 spiders that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Some of the more unique spiders include long-jawed spiders that do not build webs and hunt their prey, Hawaiian happy faced spiders that use unique patterns on their abdomens to confuse predators and stick spiders that have long flexible abdomens.
Tracey’s cousin, Bill Curtis, visited in October with his wife, members of the band he is part of, The Wise Guy Band, and their wives. They made a fun Hawaiian music video while they were here that we wanted to share with you. You can follow them at @TheWiseGuysMD
Take a look at our Another Day in Paradise's Video