Sun-kissed beaches, breathtaking volcanoes, and a unique aloha spirit – these are just a few things that draw people to the paradise of Hawaii. But a new bill under consideration could make acquiring a piece of that paradise much harder for foreigners: it proposes a ban on non-residents purchasing land within the state.
This proposed legislation, introduced by State Senator Brenton Awa, aims to address the rising cost of housing in Hawaii, one of the highest in the nation. Awa believes foreign investors are driving up prices, making it difficult for locals to afford homes.
“During the pandemic, right before I got into office here, we saw the home prices jump up $400,000 within a year, and that was because people outside were coming in,” Awa told local news outlets. “When they’re coming in with cash and our salaries over here are less than those of the people who are ready to retire, we can’t compete.”
However, the proposed ban isn’t without its critics. Opponents argue it’s discriminatory and could have negative economic consequences. They point out that foreign investment can create jobs and boost the economy. Additionally, some worry the bill could violate the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the law.
State Attorney General Anne Lopez expressed concerns about the bill’s legality, stating it has the potential to “subject the State to litigation and to cause the State to incur substantial monetary liability,” while also potentially violating the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.
The bill has sparked heated debate among residents and stakeholders. Some locals welcome the idea, expressing hope that it will make housing more accessible. Others fear it could alienate tourists and investors, harming the state’s economy.
Similar measures have been proposed in other parts of the world, often driven by concerns about foreign ownership impacting housing affordability and national security. However, such proposals often face legal challenges and raise ethical questions about discrimination.
It remains to be seen whether the Hawaii bill will be passed into law. But one thing is clear: the issue of foreign land ownership is complex and touches on various economic, social, and legal aspects. The debate in Hawaii serves as a microcosm of a larger global conversation about balancing investment, national interests, and individual rights.