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Affordable Housing Plan will fill gaps in existing plans

Viewpoint

In her viewpoint “Plenty of planning, not enough housing” (Viewpoint, Oct. 6), Ms. Malia Hill writes “the best way to produce more housing is to reduce the size and scope of the county’s overlapping housing plans.”

In 2018, SMS Research, a research organization working on many State of Hawaii housing studies, completed a policy analysis of Maui’s affordable housing needs for the Maui County Council. In its recommendations, SMS Research wrote that the County of Maui needs the “development of an Affordable Housing Plan that describes how the county will move forward to meet the housing needs of residents over the next five to 10 years.” This year the Maui County Council under the leadership of Alice Lee and Mike Molina with consultation from Stand Up Maui, has acted on that recommendation by producing a Request for Proposal to develop the Affordable Housing Plan and has hired Hawaiian Community Assets to do the work.

So, what did the Maui County Council ask Hawaiian Community Assets to do?

First, provide “a detailed map of existing and pending projects, along with proposed new projects, that over the next five years will provide at least 5,000 units affordable to households below 120 percent AMI.”

Second, recommend for “an independent housing development corporation . . . to implement the Plan.”

Third, revise the “Residential workforce housing policy, with an analysis of the economic feasibility and expected impact on development . . . “

Fourth, analyze “legally permissible ways to give preference to county . . . residents in affordable housing applications.”

Fifth, prioritize “revisions to county legislation and policies” such as zoning, permitting, real property tax, affordable housing fund, etc.

None of these requirements are in any county housing plan.

Our current law requires the building of 1 workforce home to 5 market homes in market-priced developments. According to county guidelines, developers can price the workforce homes from $500,000 to $800,000. On Oct. 5, the Maui County Council rejected a development called Lihau’ula in Olowalu because the homes for the Maui’s working man and woman would be at those rates. Tamara Paltin, council member from Lahaina, said “nobody I know wants this project to happen.”

While Ms. Hill says that there are too many housing plans, SMS Research stated that there is no plan. The Affordable Housing Plan will lay out the exact parcels of land the county must acquire, the infrastructure the county must build to support housing on those parcels, a schedule for these, and a budget to finance them with county bonds at about 2 percent interest. The Affordable Housing Plan is scheduled to be completed around April 1, 2021.

I and Stand Up Maui thank the Maui County Council for their foresight in setting aside the necessary funds to make an Affordable Housing Plan for Maui County a reality. To learn more about the work of Stand Up Maui, please check us out at www.standupmaui.org.

* Stan Franco is president of Stand Up Maui, a lifelong Maui resident, and a 30-year housing advocate.

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