We see increases in so much these days (gas prices, ice cap melting, jokes about unused furniture) that it’s almost refreshing to see something stagnate. What isn’t increasing these days is the number of homes affordable to people who don’t pull in $200,000 or more every year. So-called “workforce housing” has long been a demand of county residents who look askance at modestly sized homes carrying $500,000 price tags, but land developers are traditionally loathe to build such dwellings because their profit margin is so slim.
Which is why the Maui County Council voted a few years ago to mandate that a certain percentage of future housing developments fall into that workforce category, less we build out an island none of us can afford to live on. The problem, which should surprise no one who’s spent more than 10 minutes on island, is that developers still aren’t building the workforce housing, even though the law requires that workforce construction begin first.
Still, that isn’t stopping at least one developer from crying out that the State Land Use Commission’s second look at the proposed Kihei Mega Malls may jeopardize the workforce housing attached to the old luxury Honu‘aula project, which apparently share an 88-acre lot along Pi‘ilani Highway in Kihei. If the state LUC reclassifies that land to agriculture, the developers say their workforce project will end up dead.
“Honua‘ula contends that penalizing the workforce housing project because of the shopping centers would be ‘draconian and completely unreasonable,’” reported The Maui News on Sept. 24. “To that end, Honua‘ula is asking the Land Use Commission to separate its affordable housing project from the challenge facing the retail centers.”
Sounds pretty reasonable, right? Except if you kept reading the Maui News article, you discovered that those friends of the working man at Honua‘ula actually have no idea when they might build said affordable housing. There’s no construction going on and no schedule on when it might take place. In short, there is no workforce project currently threatened by any possible LUC rezoning.
The Maui News then points out (much too gently and charitably for my taste) that the complete lack of a workforce housing project “contrasts” with what Honua‘lua developers told the Maui County Council back in 2007 when they approved the construction of the proposal’s 1,500-plus luxury homes and condos. Back then, Councilmember Mike Victorino was talking about how their new law meant they could get all that affordable housing immediately rather than “three or four years” later.
If that seems rather humorous, how about this: on Sept. 14, Pacific Business News reported that the median price for a single-family home in Maui County is $520,000, nearly 27 percent higher than it was a year ago at this time.
Photo: Bart Everson/Wikimedia Commons