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Who Owns O‘ahu?

Mystery buyers, high fliers and all those LLCs—we take a look at who’s claiming stakes on O‘ahu.


(page 6 of 6)

The Wrong Side of the Equation 

One reason we may be wondering who owns O‘ahu is that we feel we can’t afford to buy here. Plus, we worry about our children’s ability to buy when it’s their turn.


In June of 2013, Kimberly Burnett of UHERO, the University of Hawai‘i Economic Research Organization, calculated house affordability vis-à-vis income. To afford a median priced single-family house ($630,000), a household would need an income of $96,000 a year and a down payment of $126,000 at an interest rate of below 4 percent. 


Unfortunately, our median household income is $80,000. “The median family income would not be able to afford the median-priced home,” says Burnett. 


Not only that, but the median single-family home price reached a record $719,000 in December 2014. One good piece of news is the postponement of a 2015 interest rate increase by the Federal Reserve. 


Still, “only at interest rates well below 3 percent does the median home become affordable to the median household,” says Burnett. According to HSH.com, a mortgage information company, in 2012, interest rates for a 30-year mortgage touched a record low of 3.62 percent. The previous pre-Great Recession record low was in 2003, when rates for a 30-year mortgage hit 5.3 percent, lowest in 37 years. 


Do We Rent Or Own? 

As of 2010, 46 percent of o‘ahu residents rented and 54 percent owned; 58 percent of us lived in 196,000 single-family homes versus 42 percent in multifamily units.1 Nationally, 35 percent rented and 65 percent owned, so O‘ahu’s high cost of housing does have an effect.2 

1. Department of Permitting and Planning, City and County of Honolulu.  
2. NMHC, National Multi-Family Housing Council.




Top Dogs in Town 

Large, concentrated landownership allows shorthand characterizations to flourish, not always fairly, but usefully and, at times, colorfully. Here are some neighborhoods that could almost be company towns:


  • KAKA‘AKO: Howard Hughes, Kamehameha Schools, Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA).


  • WEST SIDE: the U.S. military, HEI/HECO, SIR (see box, “There Goes the Neighborhood”), Disney, Harry Weinberg Foundation affiliates.


  • KAPOLEI: The James Campbell Company LLC and its related affiliates.  


  • LĀ‘IE AND KAHUKU: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormon Church), through real estate arm Hawai‘i Reserves Inc.


  • KAILUA: Alexander & Baldwin Inc. paid $262 million last year to Kāne‘ohe Ranch and the Harold Castle Foundation for their Kailua Town holdings. 


  • NORTH SHORE: Kamehameha Schools, Dole.


  • MILILANI: Castle & Cooke (David Murdock).


  • KĀHALA: Alexander & Baldwin Inc. recently bought 16 percent of Kāhala Avenue (including 27 former Genshiro Kawamoto properties).


  • WAIKIKI: U.S. military, Hilton Hawaiian Village LLC, Kamehameha Schools Bishop Estate, Queen Emma Foundation (through its Queen Emma Land Trust), Kyo-Ya Co., Queen Lili‘uokalani Trust, Hālekulani, Outrigger Enterprises Group (Outrigger Hotels).



Top Landowners Statewide

1. State Government, including Department of Hawaiian Home Lands

1,565,538.0 acres

2. Federal Government 

530,122.9 acres

3. Kamehameha Schools

363,526.5 acres

4. Parker Ranch

106,737.1 acres

5. Lāna‘i Resorts LLC

89,184.1 acres

6. Alexander & Baldwin

88,763.3 acres

7. Moloka‘i Ranch

56,743.6 acres

8. Robinson Family

50,614.3 acres

9. Robinson Aylmer

46,040.6 acres

10. County Government

34,142.1 acres

11. Grove Farm

33,294.0 acres

12. Castle & Cooke

30,141.9 acres

13. Haleakalā Ranch

29,199.9 acres

14. Maui Land & Pine

23,042.1 acres

15. Yee Hop

21,636.6 acres

16. Ulupalakua Ranch

18,523.6 acres

17. W.H. Shipman

16,804.8 acres

18. Kahuku ‘Aina Properties

16,423.3 acres

19. McCandless Ranch

15,163.5 acres

20. Finance Factors

13, 240.3 acres


Read More Stories by Don Wallace 


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Honolulu Magazine August 2020