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Work to support affordable housing continues

Council's 3 Minutes

As we move into 2022, I move into my second year as chair of the Affordable Housing Committee.

I am proud of the groundbreaking work spearheaded last year, and I am motivated to continue working hard, piece by piece, to realign policies to create truly affordable housing that benefits those who need it most.

I want you to know we hear you, and we are acting.

“We need to secure homes for our local families who are being displaced and cannot afford to stay in their place of birth.” We hear you.

Last fall, the council passed Bill 111, which I wrote, amending the Residential Workforce Housing Policy to:

• Create a comprehensive affordable-housing list.

• Offer credit counseling and educate applicants about workforce housing requirements, eligibility criteria, available opportunities and methods for pre-qualification.

• Give preference to folks who have lived in Maui County the longest.

“Affordable homes aren’t affordable.”

We hear you.

I have introduced bills that will bring down the cost of homes, making them more affordable to folks working and living here. The Affordable Housing Committee will be discussing and voting on these bills in the coming weeks and months.

“The cost of building homes and infrastructure just keeps going up, and homes are going to just get more expensive.”

We hear you.

According to the Comprehensive Affordable Housing Plan, “Extremely low property tax rates have left the county little to no resources to fill the gap, leaving county departments with a lack of staffing and resources to create affordable opportunities for county residents who are most in need.”

The council has been working on comprehensive property tax changes over the past two years that increase tax rates on luxury second homes and investment properties, while increasing the Affordable Housing Fund to offset the rising cost of affordable homes. I will be proposing more rate adjustments and expansion of the Affordable Housing Fund, so the county can:

• Invest in large infrastructure projects that support affordable housing.

• Increase staffing and capacity in county departments where it is needed.

• Build an inventory of affordable homes intended to stay among Maui County’s working-class families for generations.

The Affordable Housing Committee is working on pieces of legislation that represent a fundamental shift in how we view and support our local community. Housing and infrastructure subsidies can no longer be viewed as giveaways but must be seen as investments in making homes affordable for our local residents.

Support for local residents and housing is an investment in the fabric of our communities, in the future of Maui County’s culture and in the ability for families to stay together.

The Affordable Housing Committee will also discuss and vote on legislation confirming that shelter is a human right, creating alternatives to the traumatic and ineffective sweeps of our houseless residents.

Safe, stable, dignified housing is fundamental to a healthy, vibrant community. Untangling the failed housing system — and the belief system that upholds it — is a long and complicated process. I welcome you to see my proposed policy road map on my official website at mauicounty.us/johnson/.

As we continue to work on housing solutions through funding and policies, the Affordable Housing Committee would love to hear from you.

We have Affordable Housing Committee meetings planned for 1:30 p.m. on Jan. 24 and 31. Meeting agendas will be posted a week prior to each meeting.

Please look at the agenda items and consider providing testimony in writing, via phone or via videoconference. Agendas and testimony instructions are available at MauiCounty.us.

Mahalo.

* Gabe Johnson is chair of the Affordable Housing Committee. He holds the council seat for the Lana’i 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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