Launiupoko projects to provide affordable housing to local families

Viewpoint

This morning, two West Maui affordable housing projects will be decided upon by the Maui County Council Affordable Housing Committee. If approved, the projects will bring online 100 affordable homes and 61 1-acre lots, all in Launiupoko. About 80 of the affordable homes will be sold to residents making less than 140 percent of household median income or less. A husband and wife making less than $25/hour would qualify. In fact, 30 percent of the homes will be sold to households making less than $85,000 annually. This project is a wonderful opportunity for Maui’s working families to own and live in a place that has stunning sunset views of Lahaina town and boats anchored offshore below Launiupoko’s agricultural subdivision.

To say Maui County is in a workforce housing crisis is an understatement. Too often, we see friends working two or three jobs to survive or our keiki not being able to afford to stay on Maui after high school or college due to the price of housing. To remain on Maui, many are forced to live in a multi-generational home — one that was likely originally designed for a family of four. How can we blame them when the lowest priced single-family home in West Maui last week was $1.2 million?

Opposition to these two projects is coming from wealthy people who recently purchased agricultural lots in the Launiupoko and Makila subdivisions and some folks living primarily in Kauaula Valley. They are classic NIMBY (Not in My Backyard) folks. Their main opposition is water, wastewater, fire, traffic and segmentation. We have mitigation measures in place to minimize water, wastewater, fire and traffic impacts. Moreover, from 2006 through 2012, the project went through the rigorous island planning process, and it was chosen as a site for rural, including some urban, development. We are following the plan, except with more affordable housing than the plan calls.

Others are worried about the fast-track affordable housing process that I am using to obtain approval. We bought my partners out of this property in 2016 and preparing to get to this point has taken three years. It will be at least 3-4 more years until houses are built. Seven years is too long, it’s not fast track! If I went through the conventional route, which some testifiers including Maui Tomorrow are recommending, it would take another 6-7 years to get to this point. Furthermore, I would only have to build 25 percent affordable and the other 75 percent could go to anyone, meaning not owner occupants and people from out of state.

My point is the conventional process takes too long. Many West Maui residents have been waiting for housing projects such as Puukolii Village Mauka or Pulelehua. Puukolii Village Mauka received approval in 1993 and again in 2009 and has not started construction. Similarly, Pulelehua received approval in 2011 after seven years of planning and has not started construction.

In 1996, I parked at the bottom of the sugar cane fields and walked up these lands and camped by myself under a full moon. I slept well and walked down the hill in the morning with the belief that someday it would be a thriving community for West Maui citizens. That convinced me to buy these lands. I guess the point is that any damn fool could have bought these lands. All I did was think about them with a passion and somehow it all worked out. And now here we are. What should we do with the land? How about share the land? We have got to subdivide the land and build to share it. People need places to live.

What does the council want? I want houses for our locals, and there is a severe shortage. There is no greater fulfillment as a developer than to see tears of joy of local families who finally can own a home. That is why I am committed to providing affordable and workforce housing to our local residents and will continue to do so for the rest of my life. The council has a key decision to make — yes or no on these two West Maui workforce housing projects. Let’s keep Maui residents on Maui — vote Yes!

* Peter Martin is the owner of Hope Builders and vice president of West Maui Land.