Cochran: Affordable Housing Fund is for Homes, Not Solar Panels
West Maui Councilmember Elle Cochran is bringing attention to a $442,000 appropriation from the affordable housing fund that is earmarked for solar panels in pending legislation.
The funding is slated to provide photovoltaic systems on 33 units for the Kaiāulu housing project in Kāʻanapali.
Cochran said the use of the money is inappropriate as affordable housing funds should be used to provide shelter, not electricity.
The appropriation is included in the proposed fiscal year 2017 budget bill, which will be considered on first reading at the council meeting on Friday, May 20, at 9 a.m. in the Council Chamber.
“As someone who cares deeply about the environment, I am not against installing solar panels on homes,” Cochran said in a statement. “But considering the extreme shortage of affordable housing we have, the county needs to be firm and focus every housing dollar within this particular fund to the construction of affordable dwelling units.
“People can’t live in solar panels. This is misuse of the funds. The developer should consider other sources of funding,” she said.
Purposes and uses of the affordable housing fund are outlined in Maui County Code Chapter 3.35.
The fund includes money paid to the county by developers in lieu of constructing affordable housing units, private donations and council appropriations, including a minimum of two percent of annual real property tax revenue as mandated by the County Charter.
The money from the affordable housing fund can be used to “significantly contribute to the creation of affordable housing units,” according to the County Code. If housing is not the immediate or direct outcome of an appropriation from the fund, the county must “provide an explanation on how the appropriation will result in housing.”
“The Kaiāulu project will proceed, with the solar panels or not,” Cochran said. “If the county grants this funding for the solar panels, it takes away housing for more families.”
Cochran noted she is also supporting the availability of housing for residents by cracking down on operators of illegal vacation rentals.
Cochran said she welcomes testimony referencing Committee Report 16-84 for the fiscal year 2017 budget. Testimony may be emailed to [email protected]