Council member Johnson expresses support for Lahaina Strong Hui
Council member Gabe Johnson expressed his support Wednesday for the Lahaina Strong Hui, which is currently calling for action from State and County administrations to address the urgent sheltering crisis in Lahaina caused by the Aug. 8 wildfires.
“I ran for County Council to help address the deep-rooted issues facing our community, such as the ongoing housing crisis,” said Johnson in a news release. “I have consistently advocated for big, systemic solutions to this problem, and now it is more evident than ever that we will need to take bold action to help our people.
“That is what the Lahaina Strong Hui, representing 28 grassroots organizations and many residents of Lahaina, are calling government leaders to do. I intend to listen to the people and amplify their voices,” he said.
One demand of the Lahaina Strong Hui is to mandate that short-term rentals operating in Lahaina’s apartment districts, sometimes called the ‘Minatoya List’, be required to offer long-term housing instead.
“This is possible by authority granted to the Mayor in the latest Emergency Proclamation and could transition more than 2,000 West Maui vacation rental units to interim long-term rental housing units, giving housing security to thousands of families ahead of the holiday season,” according to Council member Johnson.
Last week, at the 22nd Annual Native Hawaiian Convention, Mayor Richard T. Bissen said that the County is seeking ‘voluntary compliance’ from the short-term rental industry to meet the housing needs of displaced residents.
“As we continue to hear about the displacement of fire-impacted families from temporary shelters to accommodate the winter tourism rush, a wait-and-see approach is not an adequate solution,” said Johnson.
Johnson continued: “Over many years as we faced a housing crisis in this County, we awaited voluntary compliance from the industry to help meet our housing needs, and we created long-term rental tax benefits to incentivize this transition. The units on the ‘Minatoya List’ in the apartment districts, being in districts intended for long-term residential use, were considered especially suitable for this transition.”
“Over the last 30 years, vacation rental property owners have been able to make significant profits serving visitors and now, given the dire housing crisis worsened by the Aug. 8 fires, it is fair to prioritize the wellbeing of the County as a whole over the profits of a few,” he said.
The Lahaina Strong Hui is further calling for an extended rent freeze and mortgage abatement, which Johnson said he also supports.
“With decisive action from County and State administrations, we can keep Lahaina lands in Lahaina hands and help the residents who want to continue to call Lahaina their home,” he said.