Kona Purdy never wanted to live anywhere but Hawaii. As a Native Hawaiian, he wanted his children to grow up like he did: rooted in their culture, and nourished by the mountains and ocean.
But raising a family in Hawaii meant squeezing nine people into a four-bedroom house — rented with extended family — in Waipahu, a Honolulu suburb. It felt cramped, but the Purdys accepted that this was the price to survive in their homeland.
“We stuffed ourselves into one room,” Purdy said of his four-member family’s living arrangements.
Their share of the monthly rent was $2,300. When rent increased, the Purdys realized that they could no longer afford to live in Hawaii.
“I was so busy working, trying to make ends meet,” he said. “We never took our kids out to the beach. We didn’t go hiking.”
It’s increasingly common for Hawaii residents to be priced out of the Aloha State, where the median price for a single-family home topped $900,000 during the pandemic. On Oahu, the most populous island and where Honolulu is, the median price is more than $1 million.
Many residents work in low-wage service jobs, and the financial strain is especially significant for Hawaii’s Indigenous people. A state analysis published last year showed that a single person working 40 hours a week would need to earn $18 an hour to pay for housing and other necessities in Hawaii, but the state minimum wage is currently $12 an hour.