Council takes action to assist in securing affordable housing

Council's 3 Minutes

During the recent review of the County of Maui fiscal year 2020 budget, the Maui County Council stepped up its support for the creation of affordable housing.

The council’s current proposal increases the FY 2020 affordable housing budget over $6 million above the proposal that was submitted by Mayor Michael Victorino. The mayor was very generous, but the council has taken further actions to try to assist in securing affordable housing for needy families.

The council added an additional $400,000 to the Affordable Rental Housing Program, which increased the appropriation to $1,400,000, and homeless programs received a boost of $500,000 to $2.1 million.

Furthermore, the council is proposing a significant contribution to the county’s Affordable Housing Fund. In 2008, I proposed legislation and a charter amendment that created the Affordable Housing Fund and required the mayor and council to appropriate 2 percent of real property tax revenue each fiscal year for the purpose of creating affordable housing. For FY 2020, the council is proposing to allot 4 percent of real property tax revenue to the fund, which with the council’s currently proposed rates totals $14.3 million.

Money alone cannot provide all the affordable housing we require; the effort will require many individuals, organizations and housing experts to attain our affordable housing demands.

The council has been advised by numerous housing and construction experts that two of the major factors contributing to the high costs of housing are land costs and infrastructure.

I strongly agree with the housing experts that more funding should be channeled for the purpose of securing land and ensuring infrastructure is available to service the land we acquire. Additionally, any property we secure should be maintained strictly for affordable housing projects and should remain affordable to the public in perpetuity.

Another priority for housing is affordable rental housing. Rental homes fulfill the needs of many families, especially low- and moderate-income families in high-cost markets such as Maui County. Many of the affordable housing projects over the years have been for-sale projects.

We must realize not everyone who needs housing can afford a mortgage or a down payment. Therefore, we must encourage more affordable rental housing projects.

The appropriation of $2 million by the mayor and council for the First-Time Homebuyers Program is very near and dear to my heart because I sponsored this legislation back in 2006. I had the good fortune of participating in the 2019 lottery selecting families for a grant to assist them with a down payment or closing costs. This lottery was the highlight of my political career. The smiles and the tears of joy I experienced from the young families who are finally able to purchase a home were priceless.

The increased funding proposed for the FY 2020 budget is evidence the council has heard the pleas from the public that affordable housing is not only the number one issue in the county but also throughout the State of Hawaii. Affordable housing has always been a priority during my previous tenure on the council and continues to be a priority in my current term.

Now that the financial resources are more reflective of our needs, it’s time we as a county turn talk into action and start developing homes that our residents can afford. Knowing that affordable housing is a priority, I look forward to working with the council, administration and the community in creating the affordable housing the community so desperately needs and deserves.

* Mike Molina is chair of the council’s Governance, Ethics, and Transparency Committee. He holds the council seat for the Makawao-Haiku-Paia residency area. “Council’s 3 Minutes” is a column to explain the latest news on county legislative matters. Go to mauicounty.us for more information.

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