A local group has transported 60 fold-up structures to use as temporary homes.

A Maui nonprofit working to alleviate and prevent homelessness on the island is flying in homes manufactured by a Hungarian company to provide housing for victims of the Maui fires, which destroyed approximately 1,800 homes on an island already struggling with a housing shortage.

“When this happened, we knew we had to engage quickly,” said Ashley Kelly, the chief operating officer of Family Life Center. “We just know those families are coming out of major trauma and deserve to have their own living quarters.” 

Continest CEO North America Yan Pronin, from left, Hawaii Off-Grid Architect & Engineering principal David Sellers and Family Life Center COO Dr. Ashley Kelly stand outside of  structures for emergency housing Monday, Aug. 21, 2023, in Kahului. The Biden are touring areas of Maui affected by wildfires. (Kevin Fujii/Civil Beat/2023)
Continest CEO North America Yan Pronin, left, Hawaii Off Grid architect and engineering principal David Sellers and Family Life Center chief operating officer Ashley Kelly stand outside of emergency housing structures in Kahului. (Kevin Fujii/Civil Beat/2023)

Designed and built by the firm Continest, each foldable structure is 8 feet by 20 feet and can by placed side-by-side to create larger structures. The Continest units are known as “quick-assembly modular homes.” They can be assembled in three to five minutes with one person and a forklift, Kelly said. 

The first wave of 60 homes was flown from Hungary by NATO’s Heavy Airlift Wing on Sunday.

The architecture firm Hawaii Off Grid has created designs augmenting each home with a private kitchen and bathroom built separately, Kelly said, as well as a private lanai to create additional living space. Each home will be surrounded by a 5-foot-5 gravel fire barrier.

The development is being built on a 10-acre lot in Kahului owned by King’s Cathedral. RevoluSun is providing solar panels plus batteries that the homes will need, and there will be an electricity generator on site, Kelly said. Family Life Center has reached out to the owner of a water line that runs through the property for access, she said.

Architects from Hawaii Off Grid have designed small kitchens and bathrooms to attach to modular housing units flown in over the weekend from Hungary. (Rendering courtesy of Hawaii Off Grid.)

The development isn’t meant to be permanent, Kelly said, and the Continest structures can be folded and stored to use again if necessary.

Family Life Center’s plan to create a village of small folding houses marks what Gov. Josh Green has described as a “new era” following the Maui wildfires. Maui’s recovery effort, Green said, will focus at least some attention on prefabricated and modular housing, which have long been effectively banned from the islands. 

The Pacific Resource Partnership, which represents 6,000 Hawaii carpenters and 240 general contractors, has bought into the idea of using modular homes for residents who might be forced to move to the mainland if they can’t find a place to live quickly.

Civil Beat’s coverage of Maui County is supported in part by grants from the Nuestro Futuro Foundation.

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