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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, October 28, 2002

Extremes illustrated in Wai'alae Iki, Kalihi

Wai'alae Iki showed the highest median household income in Hawai'i at more than $127,000, according to the 2000 census tract figures. Kuhio Park Terrace public housing project in Kalihi has a median household income of $11,758, according to the census.

Photos by Eugene Tanner • The Honolulu Advertiser

 •  Median household income in 2000 census, on O'ahu
 •  Median household income in 2000 census, statewide

By Timothy Hurley
Advertiser Staff Writer

They're highly educated and earn lots of money — on average the most in the state. At least that's what the 2000 census says about the folks who live in Wai'alae Iki.

The East Honolulu hillside neighborhood showed the highest median household income in Hawai'i at more than $127,000, as well as the highest median family income at $137,000, according to census tract figures compiled in a report issued last week by the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.

What's more, according to the report, Wai'alae Iki had the state's highest percentage of college graduates at 67 percent.

At the other end of the spectrum is Kuhio Park Terrace. The high-rise public housing project in Kalihi had a median household income of $11,758 and median family income of $11,653, the lowest in the state among census tracts with sizable populations.

(The Ko Olina-Campbell Industrial Park census tract had the lowest median household income at $2,499, but the census showed only 11 people living there.)

According to the census, Kuhio Park Terrace had the highest number of children younger than 5 — 248 — living below the poverty level. It also had the state's lowest percentage of college graduates at 1.2 percent, among census tracts with more than just a handful of people.

The data reinforce the nexus between education, income and poverty. Studies indicate that students who drop out or fail to advance to college have significantly lower income than those who stay in school and earn higher degrees.

What about Diamond Head?

Several people familiar with the Wai'alae Iki area were surprised by the income ranking there. While Wai'alae Iki was once O'ahu's premier neighborhood and remains one of its most affluent, other areas are considered to be swankier, including Diamond Head, Kahala and Hawai'i Loa Ridge.

The figures may have been skewed by the number of rich foreigners who own homes in the Kahala and Diamond Head neighborhoods and aren't counted in the census, said Glen Nonaka, property manager of Wai'alae Iki V, the newest subdivision at Wai'alae Iki.

Realtor Yumi Laney, vice president of Coldwell Banker Pacific Properties, said many of the executive-style houses in Wai'alae Iki were built in the 1960s and 1970s, and there are a lot of longtime homeowners. The homes generally are priced in the $700,000 to $800,000 range, she said, and the views on the hill are spectacular.

Kuhio Park Terrace in Kalihi, the state's largest public housing development, with approximately 3,500 residents, has one of the state's highest unemployment rates.

Installation of a guard gate a few years ago has helped reduce crime there, and the state plans to replace the 614-unit housing project with a mixture of low-rise and mid-rise apartments and single-family dwellings.

The Housing and Community Development Corp. of Hawai'i last year applied for a $35 million federal grant to finance the project but was turned down. This year, the agency has applied for and hopes to receive a $20 million grant, enough to tear down one of the two towers, which means the project will be accomplished in two phases.

The agency is already three-quarters complete with the construction of a 50,000-square-foot community resource center that will offer childcare, teen activities, job training, welfare-to-work programs and family education.

Darrell Young, housing information officer, said the agency's hope is to bring additional investment to the area, develop a more skilled work force and transform a place of poverty and blight into a vibrant, mixed-income community.

On the Big Island, the census tract known as Lower Kea'au, the Puna community just south of Hilo, won an odd mix of recognition as having the highest number of high school graduates or GED holders in the state — 2,235 — and greatest number of residents below the poverty line — 2,700.

The reason: Lower Kea'au is the most populated census tract in the state at 11,776.

The neighboring Kea'au-Volcano tract, with a population of 10,962, had the largest number of residents not in the labor force — 3,397.

Collette Rapozo-Yamamoto of the Hawai'i County Department of Research and Development said the Puna area suffers from high rates of unemployment, as much as twice as the Big Island's rate of 5.8 percent.

Highs and lows

Here's a sampling of other income, employment and education highs and lows from DBEDT:

  • The census tract with the highest percentage of professionals and managers was Diamond Head with 62.6 percent.
  • No residents with professional or managerial occupations were found at Mapunapuna and Kalawao, Moloka'i, which is Kalaupapa.
  • The greatest number of people with graduate or professional degrees live in Haha'ione, which includes Hawai'i Loa Ridge, with 1,158 people.
  • Mayor Wright Housing and Pearl City Peninsula-Ford Island were among the most populous tracts having no residents with graduate or professional degrees.
  • The highest percentage of unemployed people were found at Queen Emma Gardens at 38.2 percent.
  • Several census tracts had zero unemployment, the most notable being Makiki Heights.
  • The largest number of employed people was found at Mililani Mauka, with 5,915 workers.
  • The tract with the largest number of males in the armed forces was Mokapu-East (Kane'ohe Marine Corps Air Station) with 3,660.
  • The tract with the largest number of military women was Foote Avenue (Schofield Barracks) with 283.

• • •

Source: Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism

Greg Taylor • The Honolulu Advertise