Published in The Maui News, August 16, 2015
By MIKE WHITE, for The Maui News
The Maui Island Plan says the Valley Isle needs 30,000 more homes by 2030, yet only around 350 new residential building permits were issued last year. This is well short of the 2,000 homes needed per year to keep pace with the estimated growth.
The Maui County Council is considering creative ways to address this imbalance, as seen in the work of two committees on Aug. 6.
The Planning Committee, chaired by Council Member Don Couch, recommended adoption of a resolution to advance a bill establishing “affordable accessory dwellings” as a permitted use in residential districts. The bill, introduced by Council Member Bob Carroll, would allow accessory dwellings (sometimes called ohana units) of up to 450 square feet on properties of 5,000-7,499 square feet for the purpose of increasing the availability of affordable housing.
The accessory dwellings would have to be occupied by either immediate family members of the property owner or residents of modest income, with maximum rental rates determined by the Department of Housing and Human Concerns. The units would not be available for use as vacation rentals or market-rate rentals, ensuring they remain affordable in perpetuity.
If the council adopts the resolution on Aug. 25, the Lanai, Maui and Molokai planning commissions will have 120 days to review the bill and provide comments to the council.
The Housing, Human Services and Transportation Committee, chaired by Council Member Stacy Crivello, discussed so-called “tiny houses” – generally defined as dwelling units of 100-400 square feet. The discussion was requested by Couch, who provided colleagues with reports suggesting smaller living spaces can both increase affordability and decrease negative environmental impacts.
The tiny house movement appears to be growing across the nation. But further deliberations – perhaps including amendments to both state and county law – will be necessary before the viability of tiny houses in Maui County can be determined.
At the same meeting, the committee recommended adoption of a resolution to forgive debt owed to the county by nonprofit Ka Hale A Ke Ola Homeless Resource Center, which manages the Hale Makana O Waiale Rental Rehabilitation Facility in Wailuku. The facility was constructed in the late 1990s with more than $4 million from the county.
Ka Hale A Ke Ola has undergone a cost-cutting restructuring program in the last year under the leadership of new CEO Erin Lowenthal. The committee determined the county would be better served if the nonprofit organization is allowed to focus on its core housing mission without the burden of debt.
The council will consider whether to adopt the debt-forgiveness resolution on Aug. 25.
If you have your own creative ideas on affordable housing, please send them to me at email@example.com.
In other news, Council Vice Chair Don Guzman’s Economic Development, Energy, Agriculture and Recreation Committee discussed the status of the long-awaited Upcountry Dog Park in Makawao on Aug. 4.
For a decade, community volunteers, including Friends of the Upcountry Dog Park, have been pushing the project. The committee was told by the Department of Parks and Recreation the new dog park is set to open on a 4-acre site next to Eddie Tam Park on Dec. 5.
* Mike White is chair of the Maui County Council. He holds the council seat for the Paia-Haiku-Makawao residency area. “Chair’s 3 Minutes” is a weekly column to explain the latest news on county legislative matters. Go to mauicounty.us for more information.