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Council working on affordable housing and other key issues

By Staff | Sep 22, 2016

I am wrapping up a busy summer here at the County Council and I’d like to share with you a few of the things that I have been working on. As always, input from the community helps me to do my job better, so mahalo for your continued participation in your county government.

Affordable Housing

Affordable housing issues have been at the forefront of my and many other councilmembers’ work. The Planning Committee put together a Temporary Investigative Group (TIG) on Increasing Housing Inventory, and I have had the honor of chairing the group. The TIG has been a truly collaborative investigative process. We have spent hours in meetings with our county departments, community leaders, developers and contracting professionals to pinpoint where improvements in infrastructure and permitting processes can bring home prices down. It has been such a positive experience to sit around a table with professionals who bring so many different perspectives to the table, roll up our sleeves and work towards real solutions. The TIG is now distilling these ideas, setting priorities that will help increase housing options on Maui, and preparing to submit a report of its findings to the Planning Committee. The deadline for the report is Sept. 28th and will be made available to the public at posting that day.

This is a difficult and multi-faceted problem with complicated solutions, but by working together with a can-do attitude, we have a unique opportunity to create change that will positively affect the quality of life for Maui’s residents for generations to come. On Sept. 13, the Budget and Finance Committee unanimously approved a $2.16 million grant from the West Maui Affordable Housing Fund to Na Hale O Maui and Habitat for Humanity to build 22 single-family homes as part of the Kahoma Project’s affordable housing requirements.

As the chair of the TIG, the West Maui councilmember and a lifelong resident of Maui, I will continue to do everything in my power to produce solutions that create more homes for our residents countywide.

Honoapiilani Highway

Traffic on the highway is getting worse, and coastal erosion is bringing the ocean onto the highway in places. Problems with traffic and rising sea levels are not going away, so moving the highway inland makes the most sense in the long run. As a short-term solution, the state Department of Transportation wants to do bouldering work on 900 feet of shoreline in Olowalu, at mile marker 16, and has plans to build a seawall on 1,200 feet of shoreline at mile marker 14. Residents, scientists and community organizations are concerned about these short-term solutions, because any kind of coastal hardening projects are proven to worsen erosion of the neighboring coastline.

Hardening of the coastline harms valuable nearshore ecosystems and interferes with beach access, fishing and cultural practices as well. I encourage the state to put efforts and funding into moving the highway inland. Even if inland routes were created for the most drastically impacted areas first, while plans for the rest of the highway are finalized, the lasting negative impacts on our coastlines can be avoided. I am a member of the newly created Metropolitan Planning Organization, which will likely address this topic in our upcoming meetings.

Beach Access

There are some steps being made in the right direction when it comes to beach access. The Makani Sands has opened a beach access route to the public, and the Sands of Kahana has completed their beach access project that will open soon. I understand that Hololani will also have improved beach access in the future. All of these properties have received emergency permits for erosion control, with the condition that they allow greater beach access for all residents.

Puukolii Water Tank

The County of Maui Department of Environmental Management has proposed a one million-gallon recycled water storage tank located off Puukolii Road in Lahaina. There will be a public meeting about the tank on Sept. 22 at 6 p.m. at the Lahaina Civic Center. Members of the public with questions or concerns about this issue are welcome to attend.