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The Political Economy of Urban Land Reform in Hawaii


  • Sumner J. La Croix

    () (Department of Economics, University of Hawaii at Manoa)

  • James Mak

    () (Department of Economics, University of Hawaii at Manoa)

  • Louis A. Rose


In the mid 1960s there were about 22,000 single-family leasehold homes in Honolulu. Dissatisfaction with leasehold led to reform legislation in 1967, allowing lessees to buy leased land. By 1991 less than 5000 lessees remained. This paper examines why landowners elected to lease rather than sell land and attributes the rise of leasehold to legal constraints on land sales by large estates, duties of estate trustees and the federal tax code. Idelogical forces initiated land reform in 1967, but rent-seeking forces captured the process in the mid 1970s. It is concluded that Hawaii's experiment with leasehold was a failure due to the difficulties associated with specifying and enforcing long-term contracts in residential land.

Suggested Citation

  • Sumner J. La Croix & James Mak & Louis A. Rose, 1995. "The Political Economy of Urban Land Reform in Hawaii," Working Papers 199506, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:hai:wpaper:199506

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Fry, Maxwell J & Mak, James, 1984. "Is Land Leasing a Solution to Unaffordable Housing? An Answer from Fee Simple versus Leasehold Property Price Differentials in Hawaii," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 22(4), pages 529-549, October.
    2. Noll, Roger G., 1989. "Economic perspectives on the politics of regulation," Handbook of Industrial Organization,in: R. Schmalensee & R. Willig (ed.), Handbook of Industrial Organization, edition 1, volume 2, chapter 22, pages 1253-1287 Elsevier.
    3. Sumner J. La Croix & Louis A. Rose, 1995. "Public Use, Just Compensation, and Land Reform in Hawaii," Working Papers 199507, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Department of Economics.
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    Cited by:

    1. Shinichiro Iwata & Hisaki Yamaga, 2009. "Land Tenure Security and Home Maintenance: Evidence from Japan," Land Economics, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 85(3), pages 429-441.
    2. Dongwoo Yoo & Richard H. Steckel, 2010. "Property Rights and Financial Development: The Legacy of Japanese Colonial Institutions," NBER Working Papers 16551, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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