County supplement could help homebuyers with down payments


For many Maui County residents, the dream of owning a home feels out of reach.

Even for those fortunate enough to realize this dream, soaring real estate prices in a competitive market often mean sacrificing quality of life while facing the burdens of huge down payments and monthly mortgage payments.

The median sales price of a single-family home on Maui is quickly approaching $1 million (“Maui’s March home prices tie record of $980,000,” The Maui News, April 16). According to the most recent census data, the median household income in Maui County is just over $80,000.

Meanwhile, the number of single-family homes available for sale in March 2021 dropped to just 221 — more than 50 percent lower than in March 2020 — the lowest count in a decade.

The numbers are discouraging.

That’s why I believe it’s imperative that we seek innovative ways to better support residents in their pursuit of owning a home and building a life in Maui County. That’s why I’ve proposed the Individual Development Account pilot program, or IDA.

The IDA is a two-year program intended to provide financial support for 20 qualified potential buyers. A potential buyer who saves $5,000 over two years will be eligible for $25,000 in county matching funds, resulting in $30,000 to be applied as a down payment.

The Home Acquisition and Ownership Programs Revolving Fund would provide the necessary $250,000 in matching funds for fiscal year 2022 and subsequent fiscal years with the council’s approval.

The program would require participants to open a custodial savings account with a designated lending institution. Over the course of two years, the buyer would need to make contributions to the savings account that would be matched using money from the county’s designated funding source.

Additionally, the buyer would be required to complete 10 hours in homeownership education and contribute 10 volunteer hours.

At the Budget, Finance and Economic Development Committee meeting on April 8, Council Member Tasha Kama and I introduced the IDA pilot program as a priority proposal for the fiscal year 2022 budget. At that meeting, Lori Tsuhako, director of the Department of Housing and Human Concerns, commented, “The department supports the concept, and I think it would be a good pilot project to try.”

The Maui County General Plan 2030 states, “When adequate or appropriate housing is unattainable to a large portion of the population, it negatively impacts the entire community and decreases overall quality of life. We can do many things to promote an adequate and permanent supply of affordable for-sale and rental housing to meet resident needs.”

The IDA project is just one of those “many things” necessary to make housing more attainable and sustainable. But it holds much promise.

We must not be complacent and accept a reality of residents resorting to a lifetime of rent payments or having to move away from their island homes in search of a better life. If a family or individual wants to contribute to the betterment of our islands, they should have the opportunity to own a home.

I encourage community members to share their knowledge and proposed solutions on housing and other issues as the council continues its work on the fiscal year 2022 budget. For more information, including testimony instructions, please visit mauicounty.us or contact me at YukiLei.Sugimura@mauicounty.us.

* Yuki Lei Sugimura is chair of the Infrastructure and Transportation Committee. She holds the council seat for the Upcountry 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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