If you live in Hawaii and don’t own a home, chances are you spend a huge percentage of your income on rent.

How huge?

Most renters in Hawaii spend 30% or more of their incomes on housing.

But it’s a much bigger cut of their paycheck in many communities. Hawaii renters spend, on average, at least half of their incomes on housing in nearly 10% of the state’s census block groups.

On Oahu, that includes parts of the North Shore, Waianae and Kalihi. The list also includes pricey neighborhoods like Aina Haina, where residents tend to have relatively high incomes but available rentals can be very expensive.

In just under half of the state’s census blocks, renters on average spend 30% to 49% of their income paying the landlord.

Renters are considered cost-burdened if they spend 30 to 49% of their incomes on rent, and severely cost-burdened if they spend at least 50% of their incomes on rent. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development considers affordable rent to be less than 30% of median household income — on Oahu, that was $88,000 for a family of four in 2017.

To check out how your neighborhood stacks up, search for your address below:

To see the legend for the map, click the arrow in the top left. Zeros indicate that the data is suppressed to protect confidentiality because there are too few renters in the area. 

Andrew Aurand, vice president of research at the National Low Income Housing Coalition, says that Hawaii is similar to the rest of the nation in having a significant shortage of affordable units for very low-income renters.

“What’s different about Hawaii is that as you move up the income ladder there’s still a significant shortage of rental housing,” he says. “Most housing markets have a supply of rental housing to serve those renters.”


In one block group on Oahu’s North Shore between Haleiwa and Waimea Bay, residents have a median income of $94,286. But those who rent, on average, still spend half their incomes on housing.

One factor affecting the housing market is the presence of so many vacation rentals. More than one in every four homes on Oahu’s North Shore is taken out of the housing stock and being used as a tourist rental, according to a study by the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

Even residents in pricey East Honolulu are burdened by high rents. In parts of Hawaii Kai, where the median household income is $102,228, renters still struggle and, on average, report spending at least 50% of their income on a rental.

Aurand says the fact that higher income families pay so much of their salaries in rent makes Honolulu similar to cities like Santa Barbara, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Often rents and incomes fluctuate within neighborhoods. In urban Honolulu, high-income and low-income residents can be found within just a few blocks.

One stretch of Halekauwila Street in Kakaako that’s home to low-income rentals and senior housing has a median household income of $22,194 and a median rent of $902. Renters there spend an average 47% of their incomes on housing.

Just a block away, the median household income is $91,560 and the median rent is $2,702. Those who don’t own homes spend 33% of their incomes to rent units, perhaps in the new luxury towers that have sprung up in the area.

Like most other parts of the U.S., Hawaii still struggles with providing enough affordable housing to people at the lower end of the income spectrum.

In parts of Waianae, the median rent is $1,045 but the median income is $25,665. Even though rent is much cheaper than many other parts of the state, the median rental cost of $1,045 and still takes up half of renters’ household incomes.

Aurand says that for low-income families, spending more than half your income on housing means you have less to spend on other necessities like food, transportation and medical care. That can have generational impacts.

“Poor children perform better on cognitive tests if they’re living in affordable homes than children who are living in cost-burdened homes,” he says.

Neighbor Islands

The same challenge exists in west Molokai where the median income is $27,639. The median rent is just $753 but renters still use 43% of their incomes to cover housing.

Hawaii’s neighbor islands reflect the state’s affordability challenges across income ranges.

In west Maui, the household median income is $106,250.  But with average median rents of $2,447, those who rent spend 44% of their income on $2,447 median rents.

Along the southern shore of Hawaii Island, households earn a median income $48,191.  Median rents, meanwhile, are $1,496.

On the north shore of Kauai, the median household income is more than $100,000.  But renters spend an average of more than 40% of their incomes on housing.

How We Did It

Civil Beat used census estimates from the 2013-17 American Community Survey, obtained via the National Historical Geographic Information System, to create an interactive map showing median gross rent as a percentage of household income by census block group, which includes about 600 to 3,000 people.

The map shows the block groups where renters spend a bigger percentage of their incomes on rent, as well as the median gross rent in the area and the median household income for all residents in the area as of 2017.

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