Meeting Maui County housing needs is a top priority

CHAIR’S 3 MINUTES

In late June, county and state departments, local nonprofits, developers and many other community stakeholders gathered for the 2017 Maui County Affordable Housing Summit. It was an important meeting of the minds, but it also underscored the importance of moving forward with creating additional housing inventory.

Approximately 13,496 new units are needed throughout Maui County within the next 10 years to keep up with demand. Basic economics dictates that when demand is high and supply is low, prices will continually rise until supply meets demand. The problem is that in Maui County, housing prices have increased to a point where local families are simply priced out of the market.

This truly is a challenge, but the County Council’s Housing, Human Services and Transportation Committee is committed to exploring creative solutions both through policy initiatives and funding mechanisms.

Monitoring the Residential Workforce Housing Policy is one of those initiatives, which continues to be a mechanism to increase affordable housing. Passed in 2006, it mandated all new developments be 50 percent affordable as defined by the county code. In theory, the idea was well-intentioned, but the reality was that it stifled new development. Only three new units were sold based on the original guidelines. As a result, in 2014 my committee reduced the affordable component to 25 percent and the outcome has been promising.

According to the county Department of Housing and Human Concerns, the following projects are underway: Kaiaulu in West Maui with 33 affordable single-family units; Kamalani in South Maui with 170 total affordable units; Mokuhau in Central Maui with 16 single-family affordable units; and Pauwela Homes in Haiku with 33 single-family affordable units.

In total, including the county’s Kulamalu affordable rental project and seven other projects with affordable components, the 2014 amendment will have pushed forward the construction of 308 out of the 414 total affordable units anticipated to be completed by the end of 2018.

It is a start, but further tweaking is likely necessary to help deliver additional affordable homes.

Concurrently, an ongoing discussion is taking place on the future of 58 county-owned lots in the Maui Lani Fairways and Sandhills Estate subdivision. The land has the potential to add additional affordable housing units. Acquired through a legal settlement in 2011, Mayor Alan Arakawa convened a task force in late 2016 to make preliminary recommendations on utilizing the lots.

The conclusion was to sell 51 of the Fairway lots and deposit the proceeds into the Affordable Housing Fund for a future affordable project. My committee and the council must ultimately agree with the recommendation or propose a different course of action.

In my view, public funds must be expended in the most prudent manner. Housing inventory will be an issue for the foreseeable future. Therefore, any county initiative must focus on creating the maximum number of units at the lowest cost. This would mean pursuing the creation of multifamily complexes rather than single-family homes at this time.

However, this is just one of many plans and discussions that must occur. A $250,000 appropriation is included in this year’s budget for the council to conduct a full analysis of what additional elements are needed to push affordable housing forward.

My committee has been tasked with identifying the resources needed to create such a plan, and I am confident it will go a long way in solidifying a course of action.

I remain committed to making housing a top priority. Many hands and creative minds will all need to chip away at this crisis. We can’t give up and must keep moving forward for the sake of our local families.

* Stacy Crivello is chairwoman of the County Council’s Housing, Human Services and Transportation Committee. She holds the council’s Molokai residency seat. “Chair’s 3 Minutes” is a weekly column to explain the latest news on county legislative matters. Go to mauicounty.us for more information.

COMMENTS