Housing Hawaiʻi’s Future
By Sterling Higa, Executive Director
Housing Hawaiʻi’s Future is a movement led by young locals who will create opportunities for Hawaiʻi’s next generation by ending the workforce housing shortage. Our vision is that any local who works hard and wants quality housing will find it. We activate young leaders, educate the public, and convene stakeholders to address the housing crisis. We help to equip the next generation with the knowledge and skills they need for effective civic engagement.
Our organization was founded in 2021 by Evan Gates and Zachary Yamada, a college student and recent college graduate who were concerned that the cost of housing was limiting the ability of Millennials and Gen Z to begin their careers and raise their families in Hawaiʻi.
Since graduating from Roosevelt High School in 2009, I’ve watched my classmates move away to pursue opportunities elsewhere. Often, they cite the cost of housing as the reason they are leaving. I would like my three children to have the opportunity to stay in Hawaiʻi if they choose to do so. I feel most fulfilled when working with others to address complex problems.
This summer, we partnered with the Jordan & Cara Odo Scholarship Foundation for their Next Gen Leaders program, with 15 students working for 7-weeks to learn about and help address the housing crisis while receiving mentorship and networking opportunities. We are also working on our Middle Movement and Stay Movement pledges in support of workforce housing.
Another of our current projects is “300 Stories,” which documents people’s experiences with housing and their hopes for the future. Here are two snippets from that project:
Rydge and Tiara were both born and raised on the island of Kauaʻi. They welcomed their first child four years ago, who will also come to know the beauty and peace of Anahola, Kauaʻi as she grows older. They live in their own home now ten minutes from the house Tiara grew up in but frequently visit family in Anahola. To them, the places they grew up in were more than just houses; they were made homes by the people who live in them.
Aleʻa Vendiola grew up in Kalamaʻula, Molokaʻi where the first homestead parcels were granted under the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act– her family being among the earliest awarded. As a child, Aleʻa would wander from her home into the neighboring Coconut Grove: a small coconut tree grove bordering the ocean and filled with freshwater springs aliʻi were said to bathe in hundreds of years ago. Aleʻa and her family would play among the trees and in the springs, making Kalamaʻula a magical place to grow up in. Although Aleʻa would grow up to attend Kamehameha Schools Kapālama as a boarder, her heart remained in Kalamaʻula in lands connected to her family and her childhood memories and she always yearned to return home. She considers Coconut Grove and Kalamaʻula her home and always will.
We are expanding our network in each of the four major counties. It’s a challenge to find appropriate and accessible forms of civic engagement for young people who want to engage in different ways than previous generations. We define success as true sustainability, which means that our children and grandchildren can afford to stay. Our hope is the next generation will translate their love of Hawai‘i into action.