Crowding out the locals

In Honolulu this week.  Amidst the sunshine and drier weather — a contrast from Vancouver of the past 18 months — I’ve noticed a remarkable similarity: Homeless people are everywhere.

From reading the local papers, guidebooks and chatting to residents it seems that a leading cause (or at least the believed leading cause) is tourism and the popularity among foreigners of the city.  Whether foreigners are the buyers, or merely the renters, the result is fewer homes for individuals and families with long (and shorter) histories on the islands – and much higher rents or sale prices for those that exist, which many cannot afford on typical salaries.  Honolulu also has a significant amount of geographic constraint, limiting the option for sprawl as a solution.

This got me thinking about superstar cities and sudden, rapid foreign involvement in the real estate market, and its resulting dislocations.  Seems the two go hand in hand.

And I’m also almost finished reading Richard Florida’s _Who’s Your City_ for a review here; he makes an observation that the cities generating the greatest amount of creativity or innovation also seem to have particularly large homeless and impoverished populations.  Interesting relationships to ponder…



  1. Irene says:

    It could be that the cities attracting the creative class Richard Florida writes about are attracting the homeless population for the same reason – weather. Imagine living on the street in Chicago in January, and then contrast that with say, San Diego. If you had the money, chance or choice to be homeless in either location, I bet you’d pick Southern California. Living is easier when you don’t have to worry about losing toes to frostbite.

    Or it could be that homeless people are moving to where they think the locals are likely to be the most generous.

  2. Charles Rostkowski says:

    Let me second Irene’s comments. Homeless people tend to go toward cities where services are abundant and require little effort on their part. Since, for the moment, creative class cities tend to be governed by liberal Democrats with soft spots for bureaucratic, socialist programs that give away services, they will tend to attract the chronic homeless. Cities that promote responsibility, self reliance and work for services on the part of homeless clients will have fewer homeless because those who wish to change their status will do so or the chronic homeless will go “where the livin’ is easy”.

  3. KCH says:

    Exactly. I also question whether or not “homeless” in Hawaii are actually displaced residents or people from other parts of the island attracted to Honolulu because tourists and visitors have brought money and resources that aren’t made available on other parts of the island. Most times, chronic (rather than temporary) homelessness is coupled with mental illness that makes it virtually impossible to function within the established social fabric. Chronic or temporary homelessness is an important distinction for this discussion.

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