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Preliminary survey results are in: West Side workforce wants attainable housing

By Staff | Jul 18, 2019

KIHEI – In the seven weeks since its deployment, the grassroots, community-driven West Maui Workforce Housing Survey has collected over 320 responses from West Side residents and employees. Responses have been broadly representative in terms of demographics, and 83 percent of the respondents who currently rent reported that if affordable homes were available, they would like to buy one.

A primary contributor to Maui’s housing problem is that for several years, the supply of affordable housing and affordable rentals has failed to keep pace with demand.

The most recent economic development strategy report prepared by the Maui Economic Development Board (MEDB) for the county, state and federal government concluded that for several major sectors of the economy, affordable housing is a limiting and challenging issue.

The West Maui Workforce Housing Survey aligns with MEDB’s Focus Maui Nui (FMN) initiative, an ongoing community outreach program that “pulses” residents on key issues.

The current phase of the FMN project – Next Steps 2019 – involves gathering recent data from a wide range of statistical sources on key demographic, social and economic indicators to benchmark and evaluate progress made over the last decade-and-a-half.

These data are framed by the established priorities already identified by the community – education, the environment, meeting human needs, sustainable economic development, civic engagement, multicultural roots and cultural traditions as well as infrastructure, including housing.

FMN has consistently identified affordable housing as a key aspect of infrastructure prioritized by Maui residents. Seventy percent of West Maui Workforce Housing Survey respondents were born or raised on Maui, 56 percent work in the visitor industry and half are renters.

Almost two-thirds of respondents have lived on Maui for at least 15 years. Because of the high cost of housing and the cost of living, as many as 25 percent of respondents are considering a move out of state – a statistic that has serious implications for Maui’s economy.

The survey was deployed via numerous employers on the West Side, including resorts, employment services, retail outlets and restaurants. Among the organizations approached to help with distribution were the West Maui Taxpayers Association, LahainaTown Action Committee, Maui Hotel & Lodging Association, Lahainaluna High School and first responders.

As a pilot survey, MEDB hopes to duplicate the West Side survey approach in other communities on Maui in the near future to better inform residents, employers and decision-makers alike.

Among the other results gathered in the survey were that over 40 percent live in multi-generational homes and that 63 percent live in households with an income below the Maui County Department of Housing and Human Concerns’ Affordable Sales Price Guidelines median threshold of $81,400, while 44 percent of respondents fall below the 80 percent median household income threshold.

Supporting evidence comes from a recent Aloha United Way report that estimated that 52 percent of Maui households live paycheck to paycheck.

In comparison, June 2019 data from the Realtors Association of Maui (RAM) showed that the median price of a single-family home in Lahaina is over $900,000. With a down payment of 20 percent, or $180,000, a mortgage would cost close to $4,000 per month, including taxes and insurance – evidence of an affordability gap for most West Side residents.

Survey results reveal that 80 percent of current renters paid less than $2,000 per month, while 88 percent of existing homeowners pay less than $3,000 per month in mortgage payments.

Originally developed by a community working group and further shaped by MEDB, the West Maui Workforce Housing Survey is ongoing. West Side residents and employees are encouraged to participate to have their voices heard.

For more information on Maui’s affordable housing crisis, how to participate in the survey and view the complete preliminary results, visit www.medb.org/WMsurvey/. Questions can be sent to WMsurvey@medb.org.