Matthew Leonard: The Maui Coder On A Mission To Help House Displaced Residents - Honolulu Civil Beat

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About the Author

Matthew Leonard

Matthew Leonard is the data editor for Civil Beat and has worked in media and cultural organizations in both hemispheres since 1988. Follow him on Twitter at @mleonardmedia or email

There are vacant houses in West Maui, and owners who say they can’t possibly rent them for less than $10,000 a month.

Matt Jachowski could see clearly there was a problem.

The Maui-born Native Hawaiian software developer was looking at two Google spreadsheets.

One contained the names and contact details of Maui residents who had lost their homes or otherwise been displaced by the August fires.

The other was a list of landlords with properties that they wanted to rent out.

The information had been collected by the community nonprofit Maui Rapid Response, where his sister works.

The process for confirming all the contact information on both sides was cumbersome and it was time-consuming for the hard-pressed staff to match up homeowners with potential tenants over the phone.

Jachowski knew that many of the more than 7,000 people still displaced at the end of September were still in hotels and Airbnbs and struggling to find rentals.

So on Oct. 7 he launched Mauihalematch, a website he wrote the code for, and funds out of his own wallet.

“My primary goal was to make it as easy as possible for a landlord or homeowner to find a displaced family,” Jachowski said.

A snapshot of the data from the website Mauihalematch, built with the goal of helping match up vacant properties on Maui with displaced residents. (

He said it will cost about $300 per month to run the site, and as of Sunday, 19 households have been connected to a home offered by one of 34 individual owners listing on the site.

Landlords and residents are connected via a non-binding housing offer, and at that point it’s up to the individual parties to work out the rest, Jachowski said. His site includes industry standard privacy protection, he said, but the documentation requirements have been kept to a minimum.

“I would say if you’re a homeowner or property manager or landlord – from signing up to pushing a listing to a fire survivor probably takes three minutes,” he said.

Other than contact details, would-be tenants answer additional questions including their preferred location, the maximum rent they can pay and family size.

That information means the website is capturing in realtime from a growing sample, more details on the rental crisis on Maui.

“I realized shortly after launching the site that I was also sitting on top of some really important data about people’s housing needs,” Jachowski said. “Since then I have a new goal of sharing that important data on housing needs with government officials. And anyone else making decisions about the future of housing on Maui.”

So far Jachowski’s data – based on nearly 450 requests for housing from 1,450 people – shows a $1,200 gap between the median monthly rental price people say they can pay, and what is available on the market in Maui based on long-term listings.

At the level of families who need a three-bedroom house, there’s a $1,500 hole.

“A big part of this puzzle here is that rents are just too expensive for these families to afford. That’s where government needs to step in and do something,” said Jachowski. “I was able to present these actual rent gaps to lawmakers and government officials and it was news to them — the specific numbers.”

Matt Jachowski demonstrating the website Mauihalematch at a Civil Beat pop-up newsroom last week in Kaanapali. (Matthew Leonard/Civil Beat/2023)

Of the people registered, the majority are two-person households, and if they can’t get back to West Maui their preference is for homes in Central and South Maui, the responses show. That’s information that Jachowski has shared with the Maui County Housing Division, he said.

The site has been getting bumps on Reddit and social media, including on the Facebook page of West Maui Rep. Tamara Paltin, and linked on a number of relief housing sites including the county’s Maui Nui Strong page.

There was a category of rental that Jachowski chose to exclude from his analysis: vacant homes that owners said couldn’t be rented for less than $10,000 a month. Jachowski said he called some of the owners listing at that price to try and explain how unfeasible that was for most survivors.

Some cited HOA fees as the reason behind the hefty monthly rents.

That’s got him interested in getting a fuller picture of the inventory of vacant homes on Maui at a time when there’s so much need.

Right now, Jachowski just wants more registrations on the site, and although he can write code and wrangle the data, he’s relying heavily on nonprofits like Maui Rapid Response to help with outreach to property managers, homeowners and residents, he said.

“I’ve even had interest from council member on Kauai about potentially launching this on Kauai because rents are out of control there too,” Jachowski said. “Clearly this problem of connecting landlords and homeowners at rents that they can afford is a very hard and important one.”

Struggling To Get By” is part of our series on “Hawaii’s Changing Economy” which is supported by a grant from the Hawaii Community Foundation as part of its CHANGE Framework project.

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

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About the Author

Matthew Leonard

Matthew Leonard is the data editor for Civil Beat and has worked in media and cultural organizations in both hemispheres since 1988. Follow him on Twitter at @mleonardmedia or email

Latest Comments (0)

Leave it up to techie to solve a problem!

Richard_Bidleman · 1 month ago

I hope that the data the reflecting the gap between what landlords are asking and what people can reasonably afford will persuade landlords to think with their conscience and not their wallets. It is in everyone's best interest to charge rent that is reasonable because 1) we know wages out here are not as good as they are in other places, and 2) it keeps skilled members of the community here (like nurses, teachers, farmers etc). For some landlords though, there is no getting around higher rents because their bottom line depends on it (like if a rental income contributes to the mortgage, taxes and HOA fees). Most landlords I've spoken to about the nature of renting all agree that charging a little less for a good tenant is better than charging top dollar for a... not ideal tenant. I suspect that many of the rentals currently on the market, charging the highest rents I've ever seen are new to renting. Seasoned landlords don't list online, it is usually coconut wireless and a trail of vouching for a friend of a friend sort of thing and they know that affordable rent is an act of community service.

Dobie_Mom · 1 month ago

Maui County has 16,000 short-term vacation rental units. That's why we've had a housing shortage combined with overburdened infrastructure for decades.

ALC20 · 1 month ago

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