Inequality–the one-word description of our dichotomous economy post Great Recession. On one hand, we are soaring at new DOW heights and home values well beyond the real estate bubble of 2008. On the other hand, there is no recovery and we are sliding backwards as our incomes stagnate while the cost of living from food to health care, housing, and college tuition continues to rise precipitously.
Inequality re-shapes the landscape before my eyes. Ross Dress-for-Less stores crop up everywhere replacing establishments like Barnes N Nobles.
Construction cranes proliferate the Kakaako area, a prime Honolulu real-estate neighborhood just west of Waikiki, signifying a boom in vertical construction. Most projects are high-end, luxury condominiums, glass towers boasting sweeping ocean views replete with spa-like amenities (cushion backed lawn chairs aside tiled pools of water).
The most luxurious of these high-end developments is Howard Hughes Corporation’s Ward Village, a master-planned luxury community spanning two blocks of Kakaako. For instance the Ae’o residence, will neighbor a new Whole Foods store and incorporate luxuries with up-scaled names such as a sky terrace (otherwise known as a roof-top deck) perfect for throwing spectacular outdoor soirres and also an amenity deck (otherwise known as the BBQ/pool area) that includes the usual amenities plus a pet-friendly dog-run (aka a yard).
On the other hand, there is a token “affordable” condominium project aptly called Kakaako Workforce Housing (no frills in that name) targeted for local working people, not foreign investors. Of course, most locals are priced out of the new affordable, which ranges from 400 sq. ft. studios at $250k to 860 sq. ft. two bedroom, two bath units at $500k. The lack of affordability manifests into a growing homeless population in the same area–communities of tents along sidewalks or under freeway overpasses.
The facades of the two construction types quickly depicts the challenge of current times–the indulgent glassy rich and the plain worker class, the tale of two cities, capital gains and ordinary income, the 1% and the rest of the 99%, the wiping out of the middle class and the new landscape of inequality.