Buy hotels to turn them into public housing
The very well-intentioned proposal to place a moratorium on hotel building permits is probably unnecessary at this time (and probably will be for the next six years).
Statewide, the hotel occupancy rate hovered at 23.3 percent in January, down from 83.5 percent in 2020 before the coronavirus began to take hold. The Maui County rate was 18.4 percent.
Now is probably not the time that developers are thinking about building new hotels, but now is the time that Maui County should think about buying hotels and turning them into high-end public housing.
The cost of housing is probably the greatest hindrance to hiring good medical and educational professionals.
The cute little Aloha Pualani Boutique Hotel on Sugar Beach was offered for sale in 2008 for $3.9 million. With six units and a pool, it could have offered fulfillment of the Hawaiian dream home for young professionals. It has since been turned into condominiums. At a subsidized rate it could have been an attractive amenity to entice a young doctor or professor to move to the Valley Isle.
Taking one of the giant albatrosses out of circulation on Wailea Alanui Drive could help boost occupancy rates at the other hotels and provide much needed affordable housing for a wide range of income groups.