Saying the decision is between affordable housing or speculator homes, Maui County Council in committee today voted to recommend approval for a hotly-debated 28-unit affordable housing project slated for Kīhei.
Hale Waipu’ilani, proposed by Alaula Builders, is seeking the county’s fast-track affordable housing process to create 28 for-sale units on 1.53 acres at 16 E. Waipu’ilani Road. The project is 100% affordable, with eight units going toward 80% to 100% of the Area Median Income, 14 units for 100% to 120% AMI and six units for 120% to 140% AMI.
Maui County Council’s Affordable Housing Committee’s 6-2 vote recommending approval moves the project forward. It will now be heard in full council.
The land is fully entitled, and owners have said their first choice is affordable housing. But if Hale Waipu’ilani doesn’t advance, market-rate homes are under consideration. Potential plans include four-lot subdivision with 12 homes or a six-lot subdivision with 18 homes.
“The part that gets me is that if we disapprove it, we’re not saving the wetlands and we’re not decreasing the square footage on it, so it does feel like a catch-22,” Council Member Tamara Paltin said during the meeting today.
“It seems that the choice is between affordable housing and speculator housing,” she added. “If those are the only two choices, I’m not going to take speculator housing.”
Paltin said that within a 500-foot radius of the property, there are 331 parcels. Of those parcels, 62% are speculator properties owned by people living outside Maui County.
“I think that points to the real problem: Speculation buyers taking up all the housing that was once for our workforce and our local families,” Paltin said.
Council Member Kelly King, whose residency seat covers South Maui, led a failed attempt in committee to shut down the project. King pointed to the community’s strong opposition of the project in making a motion to disapprove the plan, which received a 4-4 vote.
“I know we all want affordable housing — I’ve always been an advocate for appropriate affordable housing,” she said. “To me, this is not appropriate. It doesn’t mean, as I said before, that these are not good developers. They have some other projects in the community that are very appropriate that were supported by the community.”
In a recent meeting, some members of the community, including Kihei Community Association, strongly opposed the project over flooding, wetland and traffic concerns.
Project officials today said the flooding issues are part of a regional problem in South Maui, which cannot be solved by one development alone. Homes would be built above the flood plain, with drainage and other mitigation measures taken. In fact, the measures would lessen the runoff that exists from the infill site, according to Lawrence Carnicelli, Alaula Builders vice president of development.
Jeff Gilbreath of Hawaiian Community Assets, which was commissioned by the council to create the Maui County Comprehensive Affordable Housing Plan, recently said the project was vetted and part of the plan’s priority projects list.
Carnicelli said the need for affordable housing is evident.
“We have 77 people on the waitlist for Hale Kaiola right now who keep asking what’s going to happen here, we have over 1,200 residents on our active buyers list,” he said. “HCA, Jeff Gilbreath, I talked to him Friday and he said, ‘Lawrence we could actually sell out Hale Waipu’ilani ourselves,’ they have 60 qualified families ready to go.”
Votes today to recommended approval included Council Members Paltin, Yuki Lei Sugimura, Shane Sinenci, Keani Rawlins-Fernandez, Alice Lee and Tasha Kama, with Mike Molina and King dissenting. Council Member Gabe Johnson was absent and excused.
Alaula Builders is also working on 100% workforce housing projects Kuikahi Village in Wailuku and Hale Kaiola in North Kihei. Forty Maui families were selected during a lottery in March for Hale Kaiola, which is slated to open in September.