The Death of Affordability in Hawaii

Coming back to Hawaii – there are lots of obvious changes – there are now lots of really expensive trendy shops. Whole Foods is here and you can spend a fortune on groceries if you choose to, Bed Bath and Beyond, Gucci, Saks Fifth Avenue, etc – the list goes on and on. There is … Continue reading “The Death of Affordability in Hawaii”

Coming back to Hawaii – there are lots of obvious changes – there are now lots of really expensive trendy shops. Whole Foods is here and you can spend a fortune on groceries if you choose to, Bed Bath and Beyond, Gucci, Saks Fifth Avenue, etc – the list goes on and on. There is no shortage of expensive shops here – and seeing all of that, it’s easy to forget what used to be in those spaces. Same goes for restaurants – every famous chef you can think of has a great little corner location and all the little great cheap places that used to be here – they’ve all grown into bigger, multi-location restaurants – so you can find the same great food on all the different corners of the island. Here’s the thing though – the quality in those little hole in the wall places that have grown so big has gone down and the prices have gone up. And guess what all those fancy retailers have replaced? Affordable stores. And guess what’s happened to the rents in those little places where you could buy everyday things for living cheaply? They’ve gone up – so no more cheap sponges and coffee in Chinatown – no more cheap produce from Farmer’s Markets – no more dollar stores, no more Grocery Outlets, no more big affordable Daiea markets or semi-affordable Don Quixote – instead those stores are closed and moved off island and Don Quixote is no longer a bargain. Those who have stayed here through the last 10 years may not have noticed – like looking in the mirror each day and missing the ten years of wrinkles – but all the little shops that used to make it affordable to get by each day – those shops are gone. I notice it because I went looking for them – and instead found Chuck E Cheese and an upscale boutique or found higher prices than I get on Amazon. Safeway doesnt do $5 Friday on Oahu. This island has seen real estate prices skyrocket since the recession and at the same time these systemic changes – where affordable shampoo, rice, or toilet scrubbers are no longer available – they are stealing the pennies and dimes. Parking downtown costs $30/hr and an expired meter will cost you $35-$50 depending on where it happens. I’ve always said that Hawai’i was worth what it takes to live here – but I’m not sure about that any longer. It seems that the truth may well be that it has reached the point where paradise is only available to those who already have enough money to not worry about paying $15 for a jar of peanut butter.

Today – We Are Moving to Hawai’i

It’s been a long road….I don’t mean the nearly ten years going around the world since I left Hawai’i. I mean the last two weeks…yikes…flying back from Oahu, getting our entire household packed in suitcases, arranged for an estate sale, priced, and advertised (though not very effectively) and then dealing with three days of cheap strangers (or strange people we already knew) offering us rock bottom prices for cherished possessions – because they all knew we were leaving – and then the trauma of giving the things we refused to sell to cheapskate dealers to charity or to our neighbor who helped with the process. We sold my wife’s car, my little trailer, our basketball hoop, the washer and dryer, and a few more things – but mostly at the rock bottom prices you get at the end of the month in a town where the majority of garage salers are waiting for a social security or disability check – and frankly, the sale was a financial failure – but we got rid of all the stuff, cleaned the house, and left a day earlier than planned. After four years in Reedsport – as my wife went to lunch with her friends from work – I realized that I hadn’t really made any friends there – there was no one I really felt the need to say goodbye to. Lots of acquaintances and customers – but that was it. We drove away and made a daytrip up through Eugene stopping to swim in a lake and then touring through Brownsville, having dinner with my mom, aunt, uncle, and cousin in Corvalis, and then drove to Salem where we stayed in a decent hotel. In the morning we looked at the capital, rode the carousel at the Riverfront park, and then drove to Portland stopping to play in the splashpark in Wilsonville and then playing at the Portland Children’s Museum before checking into our hotel next to the airport. The next day, we dropped off Sophia’s Siamese fighting fish with one of my best friends, ate Ethiopian food together and then I parked my VW Vanagon in his backyard before getting dropped off at the hotel. Now it is early morning – we are getting ready to check out of our hotel room and check in for our flight to Hawai’i where our new apartment, new life, and many adventures await us. Here we go!