Maui Tomorrow is dedicated to education and advocacy for
sound planning to shape Maui’s future. A big part of planning responsibly is making sure that all Maui families, individuals, and households have safe, secure places to live, at a truly affordable price.
We define “affordable” to mean that no family or household must pay more than 30% of their total household income for rent or mortgage payment plus utilities. Maui county has seen thousands of units built over the past twenty years, but has so far failed to realize this goal. The recent wildfires have cut further into the supply of homes Maui residents can afford.
Maui Tomorrow has worked closely with many community organizations to advocate for truly affordable housing. One of the local non-profit groups advocating for more affordable homes is Stand Up Maui. Two of Maui Tomorrow’s officers, Michael Williams, and Lucienne De Naie also serve as officers of Stand up Maui.
Stand Up Maui, Maui Tomorrow and other dedicated community groups advocated successfully for a county funded affordable housing plan- a clear, well researched roadmap to follow over the next 15 years to achieve community housing goals.
In 2021, Maui County Council approved a Comprehensive Plan for Affordable Housing developed by a coalition of experts on housing, and in 2022 it funded the development of a Strategic Plan to End Homelessness. Maui Tomorrow along with
Stand Up Maui and other community organizations were vocal advocates for both these plans. Maui Tomorrow is part of a hui of groups closely monitoring their implementation.
Maui Tomorrow has met with the mayor and his housing staff and provided guidance on large parcels of land where the county could step into the mix and parter with builders to develop more affordable housing projects for rent and sale. As outlined in the County’s Housing Plan- this could involve not only parcels the county already owns, but parcels the county might acquire or those privately owned parcels with existing housing projects where the county can collaborate to increase the percentage of units that are offered at affordable prices, and secure these units as affordable over longer periods of time.
Stand Up Maui has created a dynamic scorecard to track the progress of promised and approved affordable housing projects, which Maui Tomorrow hopes to help publicize. Stand Up Maui is also developing a web portal where people looking for an affordable home can check every existing or pipeline affordable housing project for available vacancies.
After many years of hoping that market forces alone would create an adequate supply of affordable homes on Maui, many community housing advocates are adopting strategies from other places facing high demand for homes from wealthy offshore buyers. Inflated off-shore demand to live in beautiful Maui is almost certain to always keep market prices beyond the reach of the average Maui family.
Maui Tomorrow and its allies are looking to implement responsible planning policies and solutions to level the playing field. An example of a good solution adopted by some resort towns is a form of voluntary perpetual deed restrictions for homes where the owner agrees to sell the home only to someone who works in the community, at a discounted price. The municipality obtains the consent of the current owner to such a deed restriction by giving them in return a subsidy for the downpayment of that worker’s original purchase, or perhaps a subsidy for renovation of the home. A deed restriction is placed on the property so it can never be sold except to another local worker at a specified below-market price.
Making sure that Maui’s people can afford to stay here and live here will require a thoughtful mix of government subsidies and incentives to housing developers, including identifying and acquiring lands that can be developed without impacting natural and cultural resources, and also supportive infrastructure when necessary. Other innovative programs are also recommended in the County’s Housing plan, and supported by Maui Tomorrow and other community groups. These include a First Time Homebuyers’ program; a rental assistance fund; property tax reforms that incentivize homeownership by residents or long term rentals to residents; and tax structures that better capture property tax revenue from the wealthiest property owners/investors.
Maui Tomorrow is sharing its long experience researching and advocating for responsible planning solutions with many community groups. Together we are all seeking the best ways to create and keep a long term supply of housing- to rent or to own, available for our local workforce; kupuna and young folks starting their careers. To that end, we have joined our allies in asking the administration to implement the Council-mandated County wide affordable housing eligibility/interest list that gives priority to the residents who have been waiting the longest for an affordable home.
We strongly supported the 2022 charter amendment that created a new County Department of Housing with the singular focus of increasing the supply of affordable homes. It will finally begin operations on July 1 next year. Please add your voices when important planning decisions for affordable housing come up before our county council and other agencies.