Report Reveals the Hidden Costs of Parking in Hawaii

Aug 13, 2020


HONOLULU — A single renter in urban Honolulu could be paying as much as 37% of their rent on parking, according to a new report released by Ulupono Initiative.

The Costs of Parking in Hawaii,” a report that sheds light on the costs of developing, operating, and maintaining common types of parking facilities in the state of Hawaii, is the result of a rigorous analysis undertaken for Ulupono Initiative by PBR HAWAII with assistance from Hawaii-based construction cost consultant Rider Levett Bucknall.

While some anecdotal and national data on parking had existed, there remained a general lack of local data around the real costs of constructing and maintaining parking in Hawaii. These have potentially significant impacts on housing affordability, costs of living, public health, quality of life, and other shared interests. In some cases, the amount of parking at residential and commercial locations isn’t based on actual or estimated demand, but rather required by local regulations developed over a generation ago.

“Localized information is critical to informing important planning and policy decisions that are being made today about future development in our state,” said Kathleen Rooney, director of transportation policy and programs at Ulupono Initiative. “Broadly speaking, parking is one of the fundamental components of how our neighborhoods are developed and redeveloped, but it is very infrequently discussed in the context of costs — and whether we value it equally. Many people need parking for a variety of reasons, from mobility issues to economic and lifestyle realities. However, there are many who don’t need as much parking but still are required to pay for it.”

The report found that there are real differences in these costs. For example, the low end could be $4,200 per stall for on-grade parking (such as surface parking) at a residential site in Hawaii County, but that can be as high as $60,400 per stall in a commercial parking garage on Kauai. Many developers and residents do not have a choice in whether to pay for these facilities, contributing to the high cost of development in the state.

The report gathers information on representative costs for each county’s direct construction costs and land costs; considers representative carrying costs for different housing products and different income groups; and estimates cost impacts on commercial carrying costs. It focuses on several types of common parking facilities in five Hawaii geographies: urban Honolulu, other parts of Oahu, and on the islands of Maui, Kauai, and Hawaii. In all cases, properties selected for analysis were derived from those areas in each geography most likely to have new development of the project types described.

Further, six hypothetical profiles were selected for evaluation, representing five possible households and one commercial store located outside of Honolulu’s urban core, such as in Kapolei.

Highlights of the report include the following:

  • A single person renting a small studio unit in an urban Honolulu high-rise building with podium parking could be spending up to $410 per month to support a single parking space. If they earned only 50% of the area median income (AMI), this could represent up to 37% of their rent (based on maximum allowable rent). A comparable scenario in a transit-oriented development (TOD) area still would require $205 per month. This is true even if they didn’t own a car and use the space.
  • If this was a senior couple with a one-bedroom unit of 600 square feet, also in a building with podium parking in urban Honolulu, the same $410 monthly cost would apply to support the one space required by code, but it could represent up to 35% of their rent if the couple’s AMI was 50%.
  • A family of three looking to rent a two-bedroom, 750-square-foot townhome on Oahu but outside of urban Honolulu could be carrying between $180 and $360 per month in parking costs, depending on whether their rent covered one or two spaces. If this household earned the median AMI, this would represent around 9% of the maximum rent allowed under current Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corporation guidelines.
  • A family of three looking to buy a two-bedroom, 1,000-square-foot unit in a high-rise development in urban Honolulu (podium parking) could be paying $84,000 for the required two parking spaces currently required by land use ordinances (Kakaako rules, if applicable, would have no minimum). If the unit cost $425,000, the median sales price for a condominium on Oahu in 2019, parking would represent 20% of the purchase price. Carrying costs for the two spaces, including their operating costs, could represent about $820 per month.
  • A family of four looking to buy a three-bedroom, 1,200-square-foot home on Oahu but outside the urban core could be covering $45,000 in development costs for the two spaces required by current land use ordinances. Compared to the median single-family home sale on O‘ahu in 2019, this would represent about 6% of the purchase price. In terms of carrying costs, the two spaces could be burdening the new owners with about $360 per month in parking-related costs and operations. 
  • A retail store on Oahu but outside of the urban core could be expected to allocate 1-2% of its gross sales to support parking facilities, meaning that for every $10 spent by consumers, up to 20 cents may be necessary to support the required parking.

“In looking at these numbers, it is one thing to say we need parking; it is another to say we need it to the tune of more than a third of one’s rent, an extra $800 per month in mortgage costs, or an extra $45,000 to the cost of a home — all without any individual choice in the matter,” Rooney added. “This may no longer make sense on an island where approximately 43% of our households own one car or less, according to the U.S. Census 2018 American Community Survey, and cost of living is such a concern.”

From a public policy perspective, the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization (UHERO) recently published a blog on potential rental subsidies required for a family of three during the current economic times (Estimating the Need for Rental Assistance in Hawaii, June 17, 2020). In this case, the household would require $600 per month subsidy, of which almost half ($270) may be going toward required parking, not housing.

Rightsizing and better managing parking present opportunities to more dynamically utilize urban land for housing, retail, and community needs — such as increasing demand for more people-oriented design and active transportation and living — instead of merely for vehicles or vehicle storage.

View the full report here.

About Ulupono Initiative

A mission-driven venture of The Omidyar Group, Ulupono Initiative was founded in 2009 to improve the quality of life for the people of Hawaii by working toward sustainable solutions that support and promote locally produced food, renewable energy, clean transportation, and better management of freshwater and waste. For more information about Ulupono Initiative, visit or connect with Ulupono on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.