Op-Ed: Lahaina Senator responds to newly announced Maui Interim Housing Plan
submitted by Sen. Angus McKelvey
District 6, West Maui, Mā‘alaea, Waikapū, South Maui
Senator Angus McKelvey (District 6, West Maui, Mā‘alaea, Waikapū, South Maui) issued the following statement responding to Governor Green and Mayor Bissen’s interim housing plan for Maui wildfire survivors:
“Nearly five months after the wildfire, I joined the Senate Ways and Means Committee on a site visit to the burn zone yesterday. I aimed to help them grasp the devastation firsthand. However, the predominant feelings were heartbreak for my community and an urgent need for action. I felt disappointed upon learning about the State and County administrations’ unexpected joint announcement regarding their interim housing plan. Essentially, the plan will not only continue to exacerbate the rental market’s hyperinflation but also displace West Maui families by relocating them to long-term accommodations at Maui Lani, severing their community ties.
Many residents, including those with children in school, work on the West side. Forcing them to relocate, even temporarily—which history shows could mean years—to Maui Lani for housing is illogical when viable options exist in West Maui. Typically, it takes an hour to travel from Maui Lani to the West side on a Monday morning. Now, add trucks hauling debris and increased tourist traffic, and daily standstills become inevitable.
How can this be a sensible plan?
The proposed “alternative” for families to remain in West Maui exacerbates inflation by paying day rates for short-term rentals. This could leave survivors struggling to cover the rent gap if government support falls short. Moreover, by paying landlords high rates akin to FEMA levels, this program sets inflated rates as the new norm across Maui. As a result, residents are facing non-renewed leases and skyrocketing prices. Calls for decisive action against those exploiting the situation have yielded only policies that further inflate rental prices.
The emergency proclamation should have addressed rampant rental price gouging, for both residential and commercial properties. It should have curbed the entire rental market’s hyperinflation until we’ve adequately housed all displaced West Maui residents. The legislative session starting on Jan. 17 offers a chance for community input. Our government, founded on checks and balances, has so far failed to adequately represent survivors, overshadowed by decrees from other parts of Maui, the state, and the country. Every community deserves to stay close to its roots during crises. Just as Mānoa residents would find forced relocation to Wahiawa shocking, so do the people of Lahaina. We must prioritize preserving Lahaina’s community on the West Side in our interim solutions.”
*****Views expressed in Op-Ed pieces are those of the author’s alone and do not reflect or represent the opinions, policies or positions of Maui Now.*****