Ask the Mayor: Why is the County Approving Short-Term Rentals With Our Shortage of Workforce Housing?

August 20, 2017, 4:48 PM HST · Updated August 20, 4:57 PM
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Mayor Alan Arakawa answers some of the questions submitted to his staff. Questions submitted will be considered for inclusion in the “Ask the Mayor” column. Submit your own questions about County of Maui programs, services, operations or policies to Mayor Alan Arakawa at (808) 270-7855,  [email protected]  or mail them to 200 S. High St., 9th Floor, Wailuku, HI 96793.

Aloha Mayor,

Q: Why is Maui County approving short-term rentals when we have such a shortage of rentals for our workers? We should shut down applications for short-term rentals until we get a solution for our residents to have homes to rent.

A: While we cannot “shut down” applications on a whim as you suggest, the county has been working hard to convene housing experts, including housing providers, lenders, Realtors, developers, community planners and government officials to address the shortfall of affordable housing.

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On June 30, the state Department of Housing & Human Concerns (DHHC) partnered with the Maui Chamber of Commerce in hosting the first annual Maui County Affordable Housing Summit. This summit, which was attended by housing advocates and industry leaders from around the state, highlighted the fact that Maui County faces a daunting shortfall of 13,949 affordable housing units within the next 10 years to keep up with demand.

The findings of the summit were grim, yet promising: Our system is indeed broken and the government should be helping to create solutions.

There are two major constraints to the construction of affordable housing: natural constraints and policy constraints. Although there is very little we can do about natural constraints, we can make a positive difference by focusing on the policy constraints and the focus should be on creating incentives versus roadblocks.

It is clear that we need to make housing a priority and reduce impediments and burdensome regulations to pave the way for housing.

The good news is that Maui County’s 56-unit workforce rental project, “Kulamalu Hale,” is currently under construction Upcountry. Also under construction is Kahoma Village in Lahaina (203 total units, 102 single-family workforce units and 101 market units); Kahoma Residential in Lahaina (68 single-family workforce units); Kamalani in Kīhei (phase 1: 64 workforce condominium units); Hale Mahaolu Ewalu in Upcountry (phase 1: 39 senior rentals); Kaiaulu in Lahaina (33 single-family workforce units); Mokuhau in Happy Valley (16 single-family workforce units); and Pauwela Homes in Ha‘ikū (33 single-family workforce units).

As we move forward, DHHC will focus on workforce rental units as well as for-sale units, identify public/private partnerships and seek ways to offer more options to developers.

Changes have already been introduced to our Workforce Housing Ordinance. These proposed changes are meant to clean up language and provide incentives for developers to build rental units for lower income levels; clarify the intent to make units available to income-eligible individuals; define assets for potential homebuyers; and ensure compliance with income guidelines.

For general information about DHHC, visit www.mauicounty.gov/housing.

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