Here’s Why Area Median Incomes Matter in Honolulu

How much residents make determines affordable and reserved housing.
Honolulu city skyline


The city Department of Planning and Permitting (DPP) released the updated Honolulu Area Median Income (AMI) for 2018 last month. The number, which is the income level that exactly half of Honolulu residents fall below and the other half exceed, was determined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. It is most frequently used as a guideline to determine who qualifies for affordable housing and rental units.


The number increased 11 percent from 2017 to $96,000. This represents the biggest increase we’ve seen in Honolulu since these numbers started being released back in 1990. The 2018 AMI for a family of four in Honolulu is $116,000.


A percentage of AMI is used to determine income limits—really, who gets affordable and reserved housing in Honolulu. For affordable housing, household income must not exceed 80 percent of AMI: $76,800 for an individual and $92,800 for a family of four. Reserved housing, often heard in reference to Kaka‘ako, is for individuals or households with an income of up to 140 percent of AMI: $134,400 for a single person, or $162,400 for a family of four. The Venn diagram of those qualified to buy reserved housing and those who have the necessary down payment saved doesn’t often overlap—essentially, there’s only a small portion of buyers of reserved housing who don’t earn too much, but do earn enough to have significant savings.


A complete list of the 2018 affordable housing income limits and maximum prices by income groups and household size is available here.