Maui News

Rally Touts Affordable Housing Plan Amid “Housing Crisis”

By JD Pells
July 21, 2021, 7:51 AM HST
* Updated July 22, 6:06 PM
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Stand Up Maui Affordable Housing Rally, July 19, 2021. Photo by Juliana Gomez.

A group of more than 40 local activists, residents and newly homeless individuals stood in unity during a sign waving rally on Maui to try to carry out an 11-year affordable housing effort Monday.

The awareness rally was held before a Maui County Council meeting in which members would receive a proposed roadmap for building thousands of affordable homes for local renters and homebuyers in the next five years.

Stand Up Maui, a nonprofit advocate group, organized the rally to call the County to approve the Request For Proposal. Its president, Stan Franco, said that driving him to get to this point was “a question of, ‘how do we bring justice, especially around housing, to our people?'”

The Comprehensive Affordable Housing Plan, created and presented by Hawaiian Community Assets, involves a five-year overhaul to the county’s affordable housing approach that would bring in 5,000 homes, offered to two-year Maui residents who are under 120% area median income.

“We cannot continue to talk about the affordable housing issue — we got to act on it,” Franco said. “When the plan was created, there was a need for people from 0-50% of every immediate income, and from 60-100%. The homeless and disabled all need to be included. I believe that housing is a human right, that everyone should have shelter. We have to take care of those needs and have different strategies for different income levels. ‘Build for all’ is the general idea.”

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The Comprehensive Affordable Housing Plan supports existing affordable housing projects, such as the ones in Waikapū, Maui Tech Park and DHHL projects in West Maui, as well as new plans like the Kīhei Police Station and Waikapū baseyard parcels. Its main focus is to build around major job centers.

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The rally comes during a “housing crisis” on Maui, where the median sales price for single-family homes are at an all time high of over $1 million.

Housing Concerns

  • Stand Up Maui Affordable Housing Rally, July 19, 2021. Photo by Juliana Gomez.
  • Stand Up Maui Affordable Housing Rally, July 19, 2021. Photo by Juliana Gomez.

Sierra Knight, a Kula resident and retired teacher, said she believes her affordable housing developer and many others perform under the minimum requirements.

“When you’re developing affordable housing for the County of Maui, you’re given a lot of perks, a lot of benefits. One of the things that you have to do is you have to say that you help workforce affordable housing in a section, a percentage of it,” she said. “The way that these developers have gotten around getting only market value for their homes and not doing the affordable housing part as well is eliminating you. They can say that there’s not enough people who can afford it and they can go to their market rate. That has been an issue here and now I’ve been a part of that.”

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Knight was disqualified from both spectrums of the financial process, the elderly housing program and workforce affordable housing.

Gary Gaydosh, a disabled community member who’s slept on beaches in vans the last six years said that some qualified people are not getting housing.

“Housing is a Human Right”. Gary Gadosh holds a sign at the rally Monday, July 19, 2021. Photo by JD Pells.

Jessica Lau, who currently lives at a homeless encampment at Kahului Harbor, said she lost her tour guide job in the beginning of the pandemic, and while she’s found work, her housing search has been fruitless.

“They say that many of us who are unsheltered are because they’re caught up in drugs or mental disability. That is not the case, as for me I’ve been working a temp job since July when jobs started opening. That’s just because, during that time, unemployment took them from March to September 22 for them to release any funding to me.”

Lau, among other homeless, attended the rally as part of “Share Your Mana” to raise solutions to housing for the homeless community.

“Our goal is to get sponsors and donation for ‘Share Your Mana’ so we can get one building, where it would be a stable builidng where people can get their messages and come in and charge their devices, take a shower, get a good meal — and a vehicle,” Lau said. “Pretty much our goal is to get a building for people if they’re looking for work they can use the message phone, to call and recieve messages if they’re looking for work or even a PO Box where they can receive their mail.”

Kahu Wayne Higa of Kaʻahumanu Church said, “Like many of us who live on Maui, we’ve seen the prices of houses go up but what really gets me is now that they’re talking about $1.1 millon as a median price of a home now on Maui. It’s absolutely ridiculous.”

  • Kahu Higa (pictured far right) holds a sign at the rally, July 19, 2021. Photo by Juliana Gomez.
  • Kahu Higa prepares to testify virtually at the Affordable Housing Committee meeting from inside Kaahumanu Church, July 19, 2021. Photo by Juliana Gomez.

Higa said he’s “in support of anything that moves the affordable housing issue forward, to make it affordable for those of who live here to be able to live here versus a commodity and commericial aspect of selling. The investment should be in our community and keiki versus our bank accounts.”

“Our people need housing and are struggling. If we don’t do something about this, it’s only going to get worse. We’re going to lose our people, lose our culture, everything that we hold dear here on Maui. Maui is not going to be Nō Ka ‘Oi anymore,” Franco said.

Stan Franco at the Affordable Housing Rally Monday, July 19, 2021.

After eight months, $300,000, and an extensive public outreach campaign, Hawaiian Community Assets presented to the Affordable Housing Comittee of the County of Maui yesterday at 1:30 p.m. but no action was proposed.

The meeting will resume July 27 at 1:30 p.m.

JD Pells
JD is a multimedia journalist from Kula, HI. He is currently earning his degree in journalism at Texas Christian University.
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