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Mayor’s strategic plan for housing does not contain concrete proposals

COUNCIL'S 3 MINUTES

On Aug. 7, the County Council’s Affordable Housing Committee heard a presentation from the Department of Housing and Human Concerns outlining the mayor’s “Strategic Plan for Housing.”

The plan provided helpful background on the affordable housing issue impacting our community, such as statistics showing the need for housing, income data, construction costs and entitlement hurdles. But with all due respect, these are statistics we’ve heard before.

Various county councils have conducted panel discussions with community experts that have provided us similar information on obstacles that impact their ability to create affordable housing. We know subsidies are required; we know infrastructure is costly; we know securing entitlements is lengthy; and we know the county is thousands of units behind the need for affordable housing.

We don’t need more statistics, we don’t need more policy recommended changes, and we don’t need more “feasibility studies” — we need physical housing units.

Admittedly, the plan provided some good policy revisions that make sense, such as strengthening residential preference, increasing the terms of affordability and establishing tax incentives for individuals providing affordable housing.

But these policy decisions will not immediately house needy families. We need proposals that transform existing units to affordable or brick-and-mortar projects that result in new housing.

The mayor’s plan contains only one reference to construction of actual housing units, which are at a site near University of Hawaii Maui College. The project could add up to 60 units.

This is exactly what we wanted to see in the plan: more real projects like the UH proposal. The plan also referenced 50 vacant lots at Maui Lani, but no specific course of action was provided.

Other than those two projects, the plan references changes to the Maui County Code that may ease the burden on developers for processing affordable housing projects.

What was truly lacking in the plan is specifics. What projects is the administration pursuing? How many units will be built within the next year and by the end of the administration’s term? What projects are you initiating with the private sector for REAL housing projects?

In response to my “Call to Action” proposal, the mayor said: “I don’t need anyone to tell me to take action on affordable housing.” With all due respect, Mr. Mayor, your plan lacks substance and does not contain concrete proposals that could result in actual affordable housing units.

My “Call to Action” was not a directive; it was an open request that recommended a public- and private-sector working relationship and offered county resources to make housing a reality. It was a genuine concrete proposal that can result in affordable housing.

It’s time to do what’s best for the needy families of Maui County.

The administration has numerous individuals at its beck and call who are willing and wanting to assist in the affordable housing crisis. All the mayor needs to do is stop pushing them aside and use their expertise to address an issue that has reached crisis proportions.

Mr. Mayor, your next step is to “Call for Action.” Use your resources, use the community’s resources, and come up with some real concrete proposals that result in housing, not more talk.

* Mike Molina is chairman 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.