Honolulu (KHON2) — Many businesses across different industries have spoken out about the need for more workers, but even when they hire the right candidate, workers said finding affordable housing is becoming nearly impossible.
Some employers said it is no longer a housing issue but a housing crisis.
The Maui Brewing Co. CEO Garrett Marrero said the lack of affordable housing is a big obstacle in recruiting and retaining employees.
“I can’t pay enough for someone to buy a $1.2 million median-priced home or the rents that they were paying $1,500 — $1,600 a month now are $2,500 to $3,000 a month,” Marrero said,
Marrero said they offer competitive pay but it is hard to keep up with the current housing and rental market. Just this week, he heard from three employees who will soon be displaced, their rentals were sold.
The Maui Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Pamela Tumpap said the lack of affordable housing is impacting employees from across different sectors.
“Our housing shortages, we have many businesses who say affordable housing and rentals is their top priority,” Tumpap said. “It’s certainly a top priority for our chamber. And we’re hearing more and more where employees are sleeping in their cars.”
The Scuba Shack Owner Charles Neal said he has found people from the mainland who are interested in working at his company, but they end up opting out once they start searching for housing.
“That is the number one obstacle, the rent is crazy,” Neal said. “I think I sent you some prices of the listings here where a one-bedroom place is going for $3,000 a month, and I don’t think anybody, most people that are working — probably is more than they would take home a month.”
The Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce is also placing housing as their top priority in addressing the labor shortage.
Mayor Mitch Roth said he is in talks with Governor David Ige to impose a housing emergency.
Roth said, “So the emergency could streamline a lot of the process and take some of the barriers that are there, out of the process. And like I said, there’s different permitting on both the county and the state side.”
Marrero for his part said he will support his crew in their search for housing, but said some of the impacts of lack of workers are forcing them to brew out of state.
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Marrero said, “Hawaii products are forced to be made elsewhere because we simply don’t have the people to do the work.”