The median home price on Maui is a stratospheric $612,000. That’s nearly two thirds of a million dollars. It wouldn’t be so bad for Maui’s working families and lower income residents if the island had a decent mechanism for creating affordable housing, but it doesn’t.
As it stands, affordable housing projects are planned on a case-by-case basis. Developers can build them wherever and whenever they wish. Or perhaps they’re never built—there are no sanctions for those who simply don’t build the affordable units listed in the development agreement.
The citizens group Maui Tomorrow is trying to change that. For the last couple weeks, they’ve been talking to Maui County Council members about how to force developers to build the agreed-upon housing.
The plan’s most important aspect is the requirement that developers who want to build more than four houses or condominiums must build additional affordable units to get their project’s approval. The number of affordable homes must be the equivalent of 25 percent of a standard project, 33 percent of a “priority” project and 35 percent of a senior housing development.
And no more agreeing to build the units, then walking away. The plan makes clear that all affordable units must go up at the same time as the market-priced homes. The plan also contains stipulations that the affordable units must remain affordable—even if resold.
In addition, builders must distribute the affordable homes within the actual project—not down the street or across the island. Those who refuse to do so would have to pay substantial “in-lieu” fees. “The in-lieu fee would be higher than the cost of constructing affordable units within the development,” states a Mar. 16 Maui Tomorrow press release.
But the plan doesn’t just go after homebuilders. Commercial, industrial, resort and hotel developers—basically anyone who’s building something that will require 50 or more workers—will have to construct one affordable unit for every four employees or pay the in-lieu fees.
Of course, no developer will agree to any of this unless there’s some kind of enforcement agency breathing down his neck. Hence the plan’s County Affordable Housing Authority, which Michaels said would be funded by developer fees and is modeled after a housing board in Vermont.
That board has nine members. The governor appoints four of the members while the rest are members of the public. Additionally, one of the public members must be a farmer and another must have an income low enough to qualify for affordable housing. Michaels said he’d like a future county board to have a Native Hawaiian member as well.