OPINION: Squamish almost as expensive as Hawaii

Many people think that Squamish still has a ways to go before it becomes a prohibitively expensive tourist haven.

But judging from my recent experience vacationing in Hawaii, I’d say we’re almost there.

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Last week, I stayed in the Honolulu area and found that while I was in a totally different place, I was, in some respects in a place very similar to the town I call home.

Like Squamish, the scenery is breathtaking. Stepping onto a beach with the clearest water and whitest sand I’ve ever seen, I felt like I was living in a postcard.

 Many people feel the same awe when looking down at Howe Sound from the top of the Stawamus Chief, biking down Half Nelson or climbing the Grand Wall.

 But in both cases, there is a price to be exacted for that beauty.

 Several of the people I met who lived in Hawaii said the high cost of living was driving them to move out of the Aloha state.

 One person told me it wasn’t uncommon for people to have at least two jobs to make ends meet.

 Paradise was great — if you could afford it.

So I decided to have a look and see what things cost on the island. And, in some respects, the prices weren’t too far off from what we deal with in Squamish.

This was most obvious when I had a look at rent.

The results were quite humbling.

In local dollars — USD when I’m talking about Hawaii, CAD when I’m talking about Squamish — the average renter makes about $17 an hour in Hawaii, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

This isn’t too far off from what jobs in Squamish pay. Here, I’ve heard of food service workers and retail salespeople making between $15 to $17.

Guess what the rent is?

In the Honolulu area, it’s about $1,500 for the average one-bedroom apartment, the coalition says.

 In Squamish, you can find one-bedroom suites for between $1,300 to $1,500.

 That’s not that far off.

 Like Squamish, Honolulu has experienced tremendous challenges with short-term rentals — like Airbnb — and has started to crack down on them, though not without pushback from hosts.

The average lower-tier restaurant meal in Honolulu is about $20. Maybe $15 if you’re lucky. Also not far off from Squamish.

 I’m twisting the knife a little here, but gas, according to Numbeo, is actually about 20 per cent cheaper in Honolulu. Ouch.

 Hawaii was also given the dubious honour of being the priciest state in the U.S. to live in this year by CNBC.

Let’s hope we don’t follow that example too closely.

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@ Copyright Squamish Chief