What is "affordable" housing?

There is no fixed value for what constitutes affordable housing: housing is considered “affordable” when it costs less than 30 percent of a household’s income. For a single person working full time at minimum wage, an affordable rent would be $365, well below the fair market rent of $1,278 for a one bedroom apartment. All area median income figures are for the City and County of Honolulu.

Our work focuses on increasing affordable housing for those earning less than 50 percent of the area median income as defined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. While some affordable housing is being built for households at 60-80% of area median income (AMI), there remains a severe shortfall of affordable rental housing for Hawaii residents at 50 percent of AMI.

Out of the 41 percent of the state population that are renters, one in five are defined as extremely low income, with less than 30 percent of the area median income. These households suffer from the most severe shortage of available and affordable housing units.

chart describing how many units are available per 100 households

The table below describes the ranges of income that face the severest housing burden and how many units are need to fulfill the demand.

chart describing incomes of various AMI levels along with necessary number of units

The current system of affordable housing development operates on public-private partnerships fueled by government subsidized tax credits and primarily produces rental housing to meet the needs of those living between 60-80% AMI. These developments are only required to provide 5% of their units at rents affordable for people at 30% AMI. Hawaii Appleseed’s aim is to identify successful models already tested elsewhere that will make it more financially viable to build units aimed at housing Hawaii’s extremely low-income individuals and families.