Maui News

Honolulu City Council advances ‘Resident Preference’ housing measure amid population decline

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View of Honolulu at night. PC: JD Pells

The Honolulu City Council advanced a measure Monday that establishes a “Resident Preference” for housing across Oʻahu. Bill 19 (2024) would specify that all Honolulu City housing programs and initiatives must include a preference for its residents, as defined under State Law.

The measure comes as Hawaiʻi enters nearly a decade of population decline, with 67,257 people leaving the state between 2021 and 2022, according to the US Census Bureau. Furthermore, 55% of Native Hawaiians (roughly 374,000) currently live outside of Hawaiʻi; an additional 40% of Native Hawaiians have thought about or are planning to leave, according to a study titled “Island Living, Island Leaving.”

A major contributor to the exodus of Native Hawaiians is the high cost of living and lack of affordable housing. In Honolulu specifically, 73% of Native Hawaiians labeled the cost of living as their reason they were moving, over twice as much as some neighboring counties, per the study. With Honolulu housing prices rising, that percentage is expected to increase.


“For decades, our residents have been calling for relief from high housing costs and for the creation of more affordable housing,” said Honolulu City Council Member Radiant Cordero. “This measure seeks to ensure that our residents come first and that any housing created by the City or with City funds will first be offered to those who live and work here on Oʻahu.”

Modeled after similar legislation in Boston, Bill 19 (2024) would specify that – for all city housing programs – residents will be given priority. This includes any housing that is:

  • Funded by Honolulu taxpayer dollars.
  • Developed by the City.
  • Purchased and managed by the City.

“We lose dozens of local people every day,” said Honolulu City Council Member Tyler Dos Santos-Tam. “If you’ve lived here long enough, you’ve undoubtedly seen it. You’ve had to say goodbye to your uncles and aunties, your siblings, your cousins, and your children or grandchildren… This can’t continue. Prioritizing Oʻahu residents in our City-funded affordable housing programs is just common sense. Oʻahu residents deserve to be first in line for City-funded housing, plain and simple.”


To qualify, housing applicants must be a “full-time resident of the city,” as defined under State Law HRS 235-1, including any individual domiciled in the City; any individual who resides in the City; or anyone who spends at least 200 days in the City. The definition also includes the qualifications set forth in HRS 11-13, which describes a city resident as someone for whom Oʻahu is the place of their residence, that Oʻahu is the place where that person’s habitation is fixed, and to which, whenever the person is absent, the person has the intention to return.

Bill 19 (2024) has passed first reading by the Honolulu City Council and will likely be heard in committee on April 3, 2024. The full measure can be viewed online at


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