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Promoting affordable housing in the apartment districts

COUNCIL'S 3 MINUTES

Affordable housing is at the top of the list of what our residents and communities need and demand.

The problem can seem intractable at times, with many complexities and underlying issues that defy easy solutions.

There is no single answer to the question of how to increase the number of affordable homes in Maui County. We have to use all the tools and mechanisms available to us to address this growing crisis.

The council on Tuesday will consider Resolution 22-154, which would transmit to the planning commissions a bill facilitating the conversion of transient vacation rentals to long-term residential use in apartment district-zoned areas. This legislation could help ensure that units suitable for residential use are in fact made available to local residents.

The resolution was recommended for adoption on June 2 by the council’s Planning and Sustainable Land Use Committee. The underlying legislation incorporates thoughtful suggestions from the Department of Planning and county attorneys.

There are more than 7,000 units, spread across over 100 properties in the apartment districts, that are or can be used as transient vacation rentals, or TVRs. Most of these units are in multistory condominium buildings built in the 1970s and 1980s and located in South and West Maui.

The proposal being considered by the council would allow and incentivize the use of these units for long-term residential housing.

Previous proposals have included phasing out TVRs by attrition or prohibiting them in the apartment districts or in certain portions outside of the sea level rise zone.

The current proposal would allow the conversion of the entire property by vote of a certain percentage of unit owners. This is an important step toward increasing our housing inventory while protecting the legitimate financial interests of property owners.

Another benefit of the proposal is that converting existing units would create more long-term housing without the cost, time, land and infrastructure needed for constructing new units.

Members of the public, including property owners, residents and affordable housing advocates, are encouraged to share their mana’o and participate in Tuesday’s council meeting, which starts at 9 a.m. The agenda is at MauiCounty.us.

Affordable housing must continue to be a priority if Maui County is to maintain its residents, workforce and quality of life. Finding ways to expand housing opportunities can be accomplished if we work together and put all of our available resources to use.

The text of the proposal to convert TVRs in the apartment districts and relevant background information are found in Planning and Sustainable Land Use Committee Report 22-53. The legislation is only three pages.

I hope interested members of the public will take the time to read through the documents and provide written or live testimony to the council.

Are we on the right track with this legislation? Are we overlooking something?

In the Countywide Policy Plan, county officials are directed to “Expand Housing Opportunities for Residents.” Council members are always looking for new and creative ways to achieve this goal.

Success in this endeavor will sometimes require being open to new ideas and working with those who are perceiving to have different viewpoints. With mutual respect and aloha, we can make the dream of homeownership a reality.

Mahalo.

* Alice L. Lee is the Chair of the Maui County Council. She holds the County Council seat for the Wailuku-Waihe’e-Waikapu residency area. “Council’s 3 Minutes” is a column to explain the latest news on county legislative matters. Visit mauicounty.us for more information.

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