Economic Justice in Honolulu

By Nhat Nguyen


This may be your perception of Hawaii, a place that is void of stress and worries. Yet, the residents who live there face a different reality. A reality that is more or less a result of the tourism that Honolulu experiences. Like a double edge sword, tourism brings wealth and prosperity to some and hardships to others. While the average tourist has an abundance of hotels and resorts to choose from, some locals are faced with the problem of homelessness. While tourist may read the local newspaper while they’re on vacation, these are the headlines they most likely miss.




   (These headlines are from respected news outlets like NYTimes, The Guardian, and CBS News)


Is this the first time you’ve heard of this issue?

A glimpse into the homeless scene that mainland media won’t show you.

When doing my research for this project, I found it extremely puzzling that landowners were still constructing hotels when locals could barely find a place to live. While both apartment complexes and hotels can generate revenue, don’t the landowners have a moral responsibility to help house the locals? Don’t we, as fellow citizens also have a moral responsibility to find hotels and landlords that don’t provide housing opportunities and boycott those places during our vacations? The construction of luxe hotels and resorts blatantly ignores the needs of those in the lower and middle-income bracket.

Hotels, however, aren’t the party most guilty of the lack of housing. The lack of rental units for locals can be attributed to the rise of Airbnb. To a homeowner, renting through Airbnb is more lucrative and less risky. To them, it’s a win-win. When comparing a map of short-term rentals and long-term rentals, it’s evident how homeowners favor Airbnb tenants to long-term tenants.

(Short-term rentals)


(Long-term rentals)

While it might be hard to get legislature to help ease the problem, tourist can help alleviate the issue by not renting through Airbnb and similar company. If homeowners realized that there is no longer a market for short-term rentals, they’ll be forced to rent out to the residents of Honolulu. We, as tourist, need to be aware if our short-term residency in any area causes harm to the locals.

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  1. April 26, 2018 by Ella.Kohlman

    Wow this is really interesting. I actually just went to Hawaii for Thanksgiving. I had no idea of the homeless issue in Honolulu. What is a way for us to help when not in Hawaii?

  2. April 27, 2018 by lkruse18

    Hi! I was really shocked to read about the levels of poverty that harm the local population. Like you said, Hawaii is supposed to be this magical vacation spot where there is nothing but sunshine and warm water; it is truly sad that more people are willing to make a profit on tourists than assist their own community. Do you know of any efforts to end homelessness in Honolulu that are active right now? If so, how effective are they? Thanks! -Lizzie

  3. April 27, 2018 by Mandy.Friedlander

    I have actually heard about the poorer community and homelessness epidemic in Hawaii, but I did not know it was this bad. I am shocked by this actually because you would think that all the tourism in Hawaii would make it a profitable place. How can we help?

  4. April 28, 2018 by andrew namkoong

    This is a very detailed application. I am impressed especially in the short term and long term analysis. I think that there are many strengths within your presentation, and that the pictures of the headlines as well as the videos really contribute to the descriptiveness of the app. One thing that could improve the app is possibly more questions and polls such as a google feedback form which perhaps goes more in depth into the issue of homelessness in Hawaii. One thing in particular I liked the most was how you linked the homelessness in Hawaii to sandcastles.

  5. April 28, 2018 by Maddie Koo

    Hey! Like you said above, Hawaii seems like the most magical, breathtaking place for a perfect vacation, which my friends always tell me about when the travel there, but never have I heard or the topic of homelessness been brought up. Seeing those tents along the roads did not look like the Hawaii I think of- I feel as though much of the world doesn’t know about this grand issue and Hawaii seems to be constructing a lot in favor of the homelessness, but it doesn’t seem like it’s enough. Have you researched any ways in which we might be helping this cause? Or is there anything you might want to initiate to help this cause?

  6. April 29, 2018 by Maya.Moravec

    I was just in hawaii and heard about the homelessness in passing but it was not the focus of my school trip. There definitely seems to be a frustration with the tourism there, particularly how it robs the culture and values of the hawaiian people. This video did a great job of giving us the full details and stats! I am wondering what we could do as people on the mainland to help, especially when there is a massive problem of homelessness in some major cities here. Do we have the obligation to help there or to do what we can here before?

  7. April 29, 2018 by Benjamin Morris

    I am so impressed with how concise this presentation is while still getting the point across and providing enough description of an issue I had never heard of before. Well done!

  8. April 30, 2018 by Eden Aharoni

    I had no idea that there was such an issue with homelessness in Hawaii. It isn’t a subject that was every brought to my attention. Now that I am more aware of this issue in Hawaii and especially how airbnb and other companies similar may be impacting this. I am curious to know more about the places that I travel with my family when we rent out a place to stay: are we harming/ playing a role negatively in the locals economic life?

  9. May 01, 2018 by Hyunsuh.Kim

    Thank you educating us on this issue which is important and yet not publicized enough. I believe that this is also very relevant to many of us who travel conveniently to other places using Airbnb services. I will share this on the social media!

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