Maui Slow To Implement Affordable Housing Plan - Honolulu Civil Beat

About the Authors

Stan Franco

Stan Franco has been a housing advocate since 1986 with the first homeless shelter on Maui. He is a lifelong resident of Maui and vice president of Stand Up Maui.

Michael Williams

Michael Williams is president Maui Tomorrow Foundation and a board member of Stand Up Maui since its inception in 2019.

But here are several suggestions to help Mayor Bissen speed up the process.

On April 20, Marina Riker’s article asked, “Can Maui’s New Mayor Finally Make A Dent In The Housing Crisis.” That is our question too.

In 2019, Stand Up Maui, a nonprofit affordable housing advocacy group worked with the Maui County Council to fund the creation of a Comprehensive Affordable Housing Plan to build 5,000 homes by 2026.

Hawaii Community Assets won the contract and created the plan, which was presented to the Maui County Council on July 19, 2021. So far, the plan’s implementation has been slow and incomplete.

Reviewing the recommendations of the plan, these are the priority actions we think the county council and the mayor should take to create badly needed affordable homes:

  • Hire an affordable housing coordinator with the work experiences in the development of housing especially for households earning less than $80,000 per year. The plan says that 85% of the homes needed are for households with incomes below $80,000 per year. If a person, with the necessary skill set to develop the homes, cannot be hired at a county salary level, the county should contract with a consultant to be the coordinator.
  • Create by ordinance a citizens’ community oversight board to supervise the coordinator’s work and assure accountability of actions taken in providing the affordable homes.
  • Conduct an inventory of all county-owned land and acquirable private lands with development potential. Once suitable lands are identified, the county can put out a request for proposals for the development of those lands.
  • Generate sufficient revenue to buy land, build the necessary infrastructure and provide subsidies like down payment or rent assistance for residents.
  • Obtain this new revenue by increasing the property tax rate on the 10,000-plus second homes owned primarily by non-residents. These non-owner-occupied homes are worth over $$17.7 billion, with a “b.” Their current tax rate is far below 1%, lower than any other tourist destination.
  • Design these housing projects into communities with homes subsidized by the County and market priced homes. These communities should be walkable with neighborhood retail shops, businesses like doctor’s offices, and public buildings like a school. The homes should have carports so that families can host parties for family and friends. These amenities are often left out of so called “affordable home” projects to lower the overall price of the homes.
  • We cannot depend on developers to bring forth projects that will have a low enough cost for most of our residents. Most for-profit developers say that building homes, affordable for the incomes most of our residents earn, does not pencil out. We need a new system to build these homes. Several housing advocates have called for a leasehold or land trust system to keep the homes built with county funds affordable long-term.

In the 1970s and 1980s, the Cravalho and Tavares administrations committed the County of Maui to find land, engage construction companies, and use county funds to build low-priced homes for our residents.

Mayor Mayor Richard Bissen. (David Croxford/Civil Beat/2023)

Since then, county government has not been directly involved in building homes for our residents with the result that many of our people are moving away from Maui, doubling up with family, or living in their cars or on the street.

These situations are not acceptable, and Riker’s question is very much what our people are asking, “Will Mayor Bissen be able to put a dent in the housing crisis?”

We stand ready to help our new mayor succeed in building the homes our kamaaina need. To contact us for any further discussions, please call (808) 214-3575.

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About the Authors

Stan Franco

Stan Franco has been a housing advocate since 1986 with the first homeless shelter on Maui. He is a lifelong resident of Maui and vice president of Stand Up Maui.

Michael Williams

Michael Williams is president Maui Tomorrow Foundation and a board member of Stand Up Maui since its inception in 2019.

Latest Comments (0)

While I support increasing affordable housing, I wonder about the longer-term effects. Lower cost housing will attract people from all over the world. Are we on a treadmill similar to what we often see when adding lanes to highways? Also think that housing needs to be part of the larger question of what "we" want Maui to look like 20 years from now. Many questions.

LarryS · 4 months ago

· 5 months ago

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