Published in The Maui News, September 20, 2015
By MIKE WHITE, for The Maui News
Affordable housing continues to be a priority for the Maui County Council.
The council has established the following priority in the General Plan: “Maui will have safe, decent, appropriate and affordable housing for all residents developed in a way that contributes to strong neighborhoods and a thriving island community.” The council’s standing committees in numerous ways are working to reach this goal.
Mayor Alan Arakawa’s comments that council members “don’t care about affordable housing” and are “stymieing efforts to create affordable housing,” as reported in an article at MauiNow.com on Sept. 11, isn’t consistent with the public record.
The Budget and Finance Committee, chaired by Council Member Riki Hokama, rejected Arakawa’s proposed increase for water system development fees in the fiscal year 2016 budget because of concerns about inflating the cost of developing affordable housing. As recommended by the committee, the current fiscal year’s budget includes a line item of $641,000 for homeless programs to be administered by the Department of Housing and Human Concerns.
Family farms can provide affordable housing, and they also generate economic and environmental benefits to the county. The Economic Development, Energy, Agriculture and Recreation Committee, chaired by Council Vice Chair Don Guzman, led the effort to enact recent amendments to the agricultural zoning ordinance that promote the viability of roadside stands operated by local family farmers.
Council Member Stacy Crivello’s committee has held numerous meetings to promote resources available to homeless families and individuals and to review the county’s workforce housing policy. Indeed, her Housing, Human Services and Transportation Committee has been diligent in raising these issues, as is readily apparent from a review of the committee’s agendas and reports on the council’s website.
The Infrastructure and Environmental Management Committee, chaired by Council Member Elle Cochran, has shepherded passage of numerous ordinances and resolutions to approve infrastructural improvements needed for various residential developments this year.
Council Member Bob Carroll’s Land Use Committee is currently reviewing the proposed Kenolio Apartments project in Kihei. As he reported in this space last Sunday, the 8.2-acre project is proposed to provide 186 housing units for those earning at or below 60 percent of the county’s median income.
Illustrating some of the difficulties in providing affordable housing, testifiers and Facebook commenters have raised concerns about whether transportation, flood-mitigation and other infrastructure are sufficient for the project. Others have said these kinds of projects are imperative if Maui County is to reduce homelessness.
Under the applicable fast-track approval process established by state statute for certain affordable projects, the council has until Oct. 23 to decide whether to approve the project and, if so, to determine the appropriate balance of exemptions and conditions. The committee will likely finish its deliberations later this month, allowing the council the opportunity to take final action before the deadline next month.
Council Member Don Couch’s Planning Committee last month recommended the Lanai, Maui and Molokai planning commissions review a bill that would allow affordable accessory dwellings on residential lots of 5,000-7,499 feet. The bill would provide that designated cottages or ohana units would be designated as affordable in perpetuity.
The Policy and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee, chaired by Presiding Officer Pro Tempore Mike Victorino, earlier this year recommended enactment of Ordinance 4201, which approved an agreement supporting the Kulamalu Affordable Housing Project Upcountry. The county’s agreement with the state Housing Finance and Development Corp. authorizes the project to receive $2.4 million in federal funding.
To resolve a longstanding obstacle to housing development, Council Member Gladys Baisa’s Water Resources Committee earlier this month recommended passage of a bill to provide waivers of certain infrastructure improvements for qualified applicants for water service Upcountry. As stated in Committee Report 15-138, “Costly infrastructure requirements for fire protection have prevented certain applicants from accepting offered water meters.”
* 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.