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Study: Maui needs more housing units

VIEWPOINT

There is much discussion about affordable/workforce housing in Maui County. The Department of Housing and Human Concerns is also very concerned and is working on ways to encourage the production of housing and to help families make homeownership a reality.

As we continue to slowly emerge from the recession, we are pleased to report that DHHC has been fielding inquiries almost daily from developers wanting to revisit old projects or share ideas about new affordable housing projects. We’ve been working with consultants, developers, contractors, unions and local housing agencies to help move along workforce housing. It’s happening — there are many projects that have signed Workforce Housing Agreements with the county. Of this list, there are a number of projects that are either currently under construction or are very close to breaking ground. They include: Hale Mahaolu Ewalu in Upcountry — 60 affordable rentals for seniors; Kahoma Residential in West Maui — 68 affordable single-family homes; Kahoma Village in West Maui — 203 total units, of which 102 are affordable units; Kaiaulu in West Maui — 33 affordable single-family homes; Kamalani in South Maui — 633 total units, of which 173 are affordable multifamily units (currently under construction); Kulamalu in Upcountry Maui — 56 affordable multifamily rentals (currently under construction); Mokuhau in Central Maui — 16 affordable single-family homes (currently under construction); and Waiale in Central Maui — 70 affordable single-family homes.

Is this enough? Definitely not, but it is a step in the right direction. The most recent Hawaii Housing Planning Study indicates a need for 12,000 housing units on Maui for 2015-25. DHHC is pleased that the production of affordable housing has begun to move forward, and we will continue to advocate for more opportunities for housing for our residents.

In addition, DHHC works diligently with both local and state agencies to ensure that laws that govern and monitor affordable housing are being reviewed and amended as needed so that there can be as many affordable housing options for our residents as possible.

At the state level, DHHC sits on the Special Action Team on Affordable Rental Housing and the Housing & Homelessness Task Force. We are also working with other entities to introduce and lobby for laws that will help spur affordable housing for residents. In addition, we chair the Hawaii Housing Finance & Development Corporation’s State Housing Directors and Administrators meeting each month where best practices are shared, challenges discussed and ideas deliberated.

Affordable housing is a statewide concern, and we are working with our colleagues from the other counties to address the issues.

At the county level, we will be suggesting amendments to Maui’s Workforce Housing Ordinance (Maui County Code Chapter 2.96) to help create a healthy economic environment that encourages the production of workforce housing. DHHC will also be introducing proposals to the Maui County Council intended to create opportunities for residents such as a potential new lease-to-own program and reinstating the first-time homebuyer assistance program. We are working to provide homeowner education courses at University of Hawaii Maui College this summer so that when the time is right, residents will have made the right decisions for a smooth transition into homeownership. Lastly, in an effort to bring forth the challenges of affordable housing, we are coordinating a forum on Maui in mid-2017. The goal of the event is tackle the issues, discuss ideas and identify solutions.

* Carol Reimann is the director of the Maui County Department of Housing and Human Concerns.

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