Maui real estate affordable housing

A common rule when looking for a rental or when buying a house is that your rent or mortgage payment should not be more than 25 percent of your total income, but for many working families living on Maui this is impossible. The cost of a home on Maui is well above the national median home price- by about $400,000! To make things worse, Hawaii was ranked as the worst place to make a living in 2014 by Forbes Magazine due to a cost of living that stands at 157 percent the national average and a poor work environment score.

“There is no question families can’t afford what is set before them for rental and home prices on Maui,” said Stacy Crivello, the Chair of the Housing, Transportation and Human Services Committee for the Maui County Council.

When I asked about the housing crisis, Maui County Council Member Gladys Baisa, the Vice-Chair of the Housing, Human Services and Transportation Committee stated that she, “understands there is a concern about the housing crisis. Everyone is aware that there is a need to find a solution to the problem.”

According to Councilmember Crivello, the County Council has a large list of ideas to tackle the housing crisis. “The Policy-Makers agree that there is a need for affordable housing, and the County Council is in the process of going through many ideas to find solutions.”

One action that the County Council has taken to address the problem is to amend the Workforce Housing Law. The Workforce Housing Law required new housing developments to build 50% of their units as affordable housing. When the law was enacted, development slowed down. Therefore, the Housing, Transportation and Human Services Committee voted to require that new housing developments only include 25% affordable housing. Councilmember Crivello feels that this new law will produce more affordable housing developments. Her office has received more interest from credit counselors, loan officers, and developers and she sees this as an encouraging sign for future development.

According to the Realtors Association of Maui, In March of 2015, the median home price in Maui was $627,500. In the 4th quarter of 2014, the National Association of Realtors put the median home price in the United States at $208,700. California’s median price was $299,500. New York was at $246,000.

If you’re one of the many trying to rent a place on Maui, the numbers aren’t any better. Craigslist shows many 3 bedroom homes renting for $2,000 plus, 2 bedrooms homes ranging from around $1500 (very rare) to $4,800, and studio apartments beginning at $1,000 and ranging up to $1,900. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the median income for a working family in Hawaii with 2 earners for 2014 was $65,708, making $1,368, an affordable amount to spend on rent each month. Therefore, if you’re looking on Craigslist, that would put a working family with 2 incomes in the studio rental range!

As well as sky rocketing rental prices Maui families are being discriminated against (even though discriminating against renters based on family size is illegal under the Federal Fair Housing Act). However, there is an exemption to owner-occupied rentals, meaning that landlords who are renting out Ohana-style units can discriminate based on family size, which is many of the units that are for rent in Maui. Ask many families who are currently trying to find rentals and they will share with you stories of not getting calls back or simply denied the opportunity to rent because they have-shreik!-Children. There has also been families who have not been able to find rentals at all and have had to camp or live in their cars during their housing search. Imagine how stressful this is for our families, and how this affects many Maui children.

For more information, or if you would like to voice your opinion on this issue go to the Housing, Transportation and Human Services Committee, they meet on the 1st and 3rd Thursday of every month at the Council Chamber. Together we have a voice.

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Image Credit: mauimama

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Emily Severson is a Montessori Elementary Teacher on Maui and is the very proud parent of Laila Jane.

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