Affordable housing rally calls for reform, prioritizing residents
Council panel hears final report on $1B comprehensive plan
KAHULUI — Holding signs and shouting for housing reform, scores of residents rallied Monday in Kahului ahead of a Maui County Council committee meeting that weighed a comprehensive affordable housing plan with a price tag of more than $1 billion.
“Build affordable housing now,” Maui resident Faith Chase yelled through a bullhorn at the rally. “No more studies.”
“Build affordable housing now,” she echoed. “Build affordable housing in perpetuity.”
Organized by Stand Up Maui, the affordable housing rally gathered more than 40 people along Ka’ahumanu Avenue fronting Queen Ka’ahumanu Center during the middle of the day.
Meanwhile, the council’s Affordable Housing Committee heard the final report for the Comprehensive Affordable Housing Plan, initially presented as a draft in March. The plan calls for major overhauls to the county’s affordable housing approach in order to bring 5,000 units online within five years for households below 120 percent area median income.
Buckling under a longstanding affordable housing crisis, Maui County this year for the first time breached $1 million in median sales prices for single-family homes as inventory numbers continued to plummet to record lows.
High visitor volumes, coupled with high occupancy in Maui transient vacation rentals, have exacerbated concerns over housing for locals.
Public testifiers during Monday’s committee meeting were concerned about the county prioritizing longtime residents over short-term ones when it comes to affordable housing. Some said requirements should be at least 20 years of residency for affordable housing project consideration. The final plan calls for two years of residency.
“Twenty seems like the minimum — not two years,” Maile Magalianes, a Kahului resident. “We were born here. We do not deserve to be driven out.”
Junya Nakoa of Napili said he has many friends who paddle canoe, who have only lived on Maui a couple of years and “even they no say they like one house before the locals.”
“Locals is so piss off — not joking. And then you’re talking about Mainland people coming. We are sick and tired of them taking our land and our houses.”
Kihei resident Tom Cook said the real estate industry is advertising and selling Maui globally and the high demand from outsiders displaces residents. He said “extreme preferential treatment” should be given to local working residents.
The county contracted Jeff Gilbreath, executive director of Hawaiian Community Assets, and his team for $300,000 in November to engage the community and develop a comprehensive plan. The group conducted public outreach over eight months that involved public and private stakeholders, housing providers and advocates, social service agencies, developers, development consultants, licensed contractors, financial institutions, county staff and many community groups.
A change from the draft plan, which called for 25 percent of the land for each project to be donated to the county for affordable housing development, the final plan said developers would “designate” 20 percent of the land to affordable housing development and “build housing that meets the needs of residents when seeking resources from the county Affordable Housing Fund.”
Another major shift would be having the county shoulder more of the burden for infrastructure, such as roads and wastewater projects. The final report calls for $380 million to be designated to infrastructure, including water projects, wastewater projects, planning design and management, and road projects.
Another $789 million of the total price tag would go to housing supports for locals, which include planning, design and management; rental project subsidy; pilot and demonstration projects; and mortgage subsidy homes.
“The current system is still reeling from the dominant narrative that has taken hold for the last 40 years which is a lack of public investment in affordable housing for those who need it most and the infrastructure to do it,” Gilbreath said. “What you folks would be doing with this plan, is you would be rectifying that — using affordable housing bonds to make the investment over the next 20 years at a five-year window.”
Council Chairwoman Alice Lee said she has concerns about the costs of the plan, especially the infrastructure.
“In your extensive research with various municipalities, did you come across one that was able to raise 1.69 billion dollars for infrastructure for housing?” she asked.
Hawaiian Community Assets officials said that bonds in other municipalities were not assessed and that revenue could be generated through real property taxes, especially if rates are raised on short-term rental homes.
Lee said that the council’s goal is to reduce short-term rental homes.
“If you look at our tax revenues, you will see that everyone is pretty well covered, except maybe the homeowners/owner occupied,” she said. “There may be some room there, but not much — not to the tune of 1 billion dollars.”
Council members and county staff will continue to comb through the plan and evaluate priorities. No action was proposed, and the meeting was recessed to 1:30 p.m. July 27.
* Kehaulani Cerizo can be reached at email@example.com.