Excessive regulation will lead to even less affordable housing | News, Sports, Jobs
As mayor, I wholeheartedly support the development of accessible and affordable housing, including low cost rentals for our residents. The availability and supply of housing is critical to sustaining and growing our workforce and protecting our social and economic future.
Maui County Council called Bill 10 a “Affordable Housing Bill”, although almost all of the experts in affordable and affordable housing have testified, this bill will produce very little housing for our residents.
Even the council’s own consultant, Hawaiian Community Assets, a respected community organization the council contracted for $ 300,000 to develop an affordable housing plan, urged them not to go ahead with Bill 10. Still, the board continued with an affirmative vote.
Hawaii Community Assets’ preliminary recommendations call for streamlining land zoning regulations and improving predictability in planning, permitting and board review processes. The project goes on to say that the council “Approval processes lead to the derailment of the project and the need to repeat the process, which adds time to development and dramatically increases costs.”
Bill 10 adds another unwanted layer of regulation and bureaucracy to existing home construction processes. Excessive regulation delays projects, increases costs, and will not meet our urgent need for a range of affordable housing options.
According to the bill, builders “Expressway” approvals must build at least 75 percent of the residential units intended for very low or upper to middle income households, unless a lower percentage is approved by council resolution.
Council voted 6-3 to pass Bill 10, but it should be noted that the three opposing votes came from Maui County Council President Alice Lee, former director of the Department of Housing and Human Concerns; Council member Tasha Kama, former chair of the council’s affordable housing committee; and Yuki-Lei Sugimura, board member, chair of the infrastructure and transport committee. All three saw a similar measure adopted in 2006 fail dramatically. He produced only three houses of work after eight years.
Teachers, nurses, firefighters, farmers, small business owners, young professionals, and visitor industry workers are really essential. They keep our community safe and strong and we need to keep them here. All will be affected by Bill 10 because local affordable home builders cannot afford the cost or time to build the housing they need.
With the median price of a single family home in Maui now at $ 960,000, even those with deep family roots are considering moving. Unfortunately, the lack of adequately priced housing is creating a new group of economic refugees seeking financial assistance elsewhere.
During the pandemic, buyers with overseas cash came to our community to purchase our limited inventory of homes. Some have come in search of a nice work-from-home location. Others came to buy investment properties. Still others have come to fulfill a dream of retiring to Maui. Whatever their reasons, their wealth has allowed them to rise to the number one homebuyer to further deplete our meager housing inventory. If Bill 10 comes into force, very little affordable housing will be built because it will hinder the development of new housing for the workforce. The limited supply means we can expect the price of a Maui home to skyrocket into the seven-figure range. Who can afford it?
It is not too late to contact your council member to ask them to fully take into account the effects of Bill 10.
The Maui County government must and can do better. We can streamline the approval process for workforce housing and commit to building more infrastructure for the desired development. We can speed up an expensive permitting and review process bogged down by a host of well-meaning building and environmental codes and administrative inefficiencies. We can think creatively and redevelop existing buildings like we did by turning abandoned dormitories at UHMC into halfway houses for low income families. We can zoning existing county-owned land for workforce housing in partnership with non-profit or community-based developers. We can work together to transform a culture of “no” to one of “Let’s go.”
Every group, including my administration, county council, state, our residents, special interest and anti-development groups, social service agencies, nonprofits, developers, bankers, and Realtors have a role to play if we are to stem the tide of family, friends and neighbors leaving Maui in search of affordable homes elsewhere.
* “Our county”, a column by Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino discusses county issues and county government activities.