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Saturday, January 20, 2024
Ways to improve Maui Interim Housing Plan
By Keli'i Akina PhD @ 3:08 AM :: 1140 Views :: Maui County

What I said to the governor about Maui housing

by Keli'i Akina, Ph.D. President/CEO Grassroot Institute, January 21, 2024

When facing a challenge such as rebuilding Lahaina, it’s important to work together to get the best possible outcome.

Everyone involved won’t always agree on the best approach, but open discussion and debate will give the public a say to help find the best route forward.

That’s why on Thursday, as president of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, I sent a memo to key government officials who collaborated with the Hawaii Community Foundation, the American Red Cross and the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement to create the $500 million Maui Interim Housing Plan, which seeks to find housing for the many Maui residents displaced by the tragic August 2023 wildfires.

Specifically, I wrote to Gov. Josh Green, Mayor Richard Bissen, Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Robert Fenton Jr., and all the members of the Maui County Council and Hawaii State Legislature.

In my memo, I first praised the plan, noting that it is “directionally sound” and should help in the mission to speedily provide temporary housing. But I also noted there are ways to make it better, especially regarding the state’s goal of constructing 1,050 temporary and permanent housing units by July of this year. I detailed six proposals:

>> Identify state- and county-owned parcels near sewer and water infrastructure that could be speedily available for homebuilding.

>> Maximize the amount of housing that can be built within budget and on the available land. For example, instead of building one home on an 1,800-square-foot, build two. In general, build duplexes, triplexes or accessory dwelling units wherever possible. This might require waiving zoning density restrictions, but that could easily be done by emergency proclamation at either the state or county level.

>> Let private builders participate in providing emergency housing, especially where there is already access to existing infrastructure. The state and Maui County could encourage these efforts by waiving density restrictions and building and impact fees for private landowners who build housing for Maui fire victims.

>> Determine whether certain occupational licensing laws should be waived so out-of-state contractors and skilled tradespeople can help with local housing construction. Experts have suggested that the state might not have enough skilled tradespeople to assist with our construction goals. If that is true, we need to do something about it.

>> Exempt landlords participating in the housing program from having to pay state and county general excise and transient accommodations taxes on any funds received from the state, Maui County, FEMA, the Red Cross or the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement.

>> Amend Maui’s emergency permitting law to waive building permit fees, speed approval times and broaden the kinds of buildings covered by the statute, which currently applies to only “one-and-two family dwellings and accessory dwelling structures.”

If you would like to read the entire four-page memo I sent to the governor, Mayor Bissen and the others, you can find a copy here.

My hope is that our state and county officials will carefully consider the suggestions I offered to improve the current Maui Interim Housing Plan. I share their desire to address the needs of our Maui ohana, and am confident that we will have the greatest impact if we work together.

  *   *   *   *   *

Akina lists ways to improve Maui Interim Housing Plan

The Grassroot president says the $500 million plan is fine but could be improved to more quickly help displaced fire victims

from Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, January 19, 2024

A $500 million plan to find housing for residents displaced by the horrendous Aug. 8 wildfires on Maui is “directionally sound” but could be improved in several ways, said Grassroot Institute of Hawaii President Keli‘i Akina in a letter sent yesterday to Gov. Josh Green, Mayor Richard Bissen, Federal Emergency Management Agency Region 9 Administrator Robert Fenton Jr. and all members of the Legislature and Maui County Council.

The Maui Interim Housing Plan, unveiled Jan. 5, is aimed at “securing a pool of 3,000 housing units with 18-month commitments to provide a stable place for households displaced by the Maui fires, currently residing in short-term hotels,” according to statement from the governor’s office.

The plan was a collaborative effort among the State of Hawaii, County of Maui, FEMA, Hawai‘i Community Foundation, Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement and American Red Cross.

In his letter, Akina outlined the strengths of the current plan, which among other objectives seeks to construct 1,050 new homes by July 1, 2024. His proposed additions to the plan — “put together by my team at the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii” — include:

>> Identifying state- and county-owned parcels near sewer and water infrastructure that could be speedily available for homebuilding.

>> Waiving zoning density restrictions.

>> Determining whether certain occupational licensing laws should be waived so out-of-state contractors and skilled tradespeople can help with local housing construction.

>> Exempting from the state and county general excise and transient accommodations taxes any monies landlords are paid by the state, FEMA, the Red Cross or the Council on Native Hawaiian Advancement.

>> Expanding Maui’s emergency permitting statute to speed up permitting wait times, waive building permit fees and cover more types of buildings than just “one- and two-family dwellings and accessory structures.”

For details about each of these proposals, please read Akina’s complete letter here.

Akina closed by noting: “We share your goal of finding housing quickly for the many Maui residents displaced by the August 2023 wildfires, and I hope you will consider these suggestions we have made that could improve the effectiveness of the plan. … My best wishes to all of you as you do good work on behalf of the Maui fire survivors.”

 

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