Let’s Work Together to Rebuild Our Economy

With government support, the homebuilding industry can be an economic driver.
Photo: Getty Images

One essential stronghold has kept up the good economic fight against COVID-19: the construction industry.

When the Mainland reeled from the 2008 financial crisis, Hawaii’s tourism-reliant economy chugged along. Now, waves of COVID-19 and statewide shutdowns have left us with one of the nation’s highest unemployment rates and the potential for the worst economic recession in decades.

Yet the pandemic is full of unexpected twists: Home sales are surprisingly up in Hawaii. Residential construction is resurfacing as an untapped market — the demand for affordable homes has surpassed supply for many years now.

We should further this renewed opportunity by asking government to prioritize homebuilding. As our elected officials take office, they have the opportunity to tap into their skill sets and connections to help increase housing supply, create jobs for displaced workers, develop a strong workforce with essential skills, and reduce homebuilding and buying costs in Hawaii by:

Expediting permits for approved construction projects.
Launching a new building permit system reliant on building inspectors rather than office administrators to ensure code compliance, reducing delays in permit issuance and creating jobs for essential workers.
Allocating infrastructure dollars supporting 
construction while addressing immediate climate change issues, such as relocation of coastal roads and facilities.
Developing creative financial incentives such as credits to offset the increased cost to build brought on by new regulatory measures and codes.

Construction is an essential business that will reliably boost our economy. BIA-Hawaii recognizes the immediate positive impact of homebuilding and we urge homeowners and buyers to take action now by asking their elected officials to implement policy that strengthens the industry. You are in a key position to bring about real change.

Jess Leorna is CEO of Building Industry Association – Hawaii. BIA-Hawaii interviewed the mayoral candidates about the permit process; see their responses at biahawaii.org/mayor-race.

Categories: Building Industry, Industry Watch