Akina lists ways to improve Maui Interim Housing Plan

The Grassroot president says the $500 million plan is fine but could be improved to more quickly help displaced fire victims

A $500 million plan to find housing for residents displaced by the horrendous Aug. 8 wildfires on Maui is “directionally sound” but could be improved in several ways, said Grassroot Institute of Hawaii President Keli‘i Akina in a letter sent yesterday to Gov. Josh Green, Mayor Richard Bissen, Federal Emergency Management Agency Region 9 Administrator Robert Fenton Jr. and all members of the Legislature and Maui County Council.

The Maui Interim Housing Plan, unveiled Jan. 5, is aimed at “securing a pool of 3,000 housing units with 18-month commitments to provide a stable place for households displaced by the Maui fires, currently residing in short-term hotels,” according to statement from the governor’s office.

The plan was a collaborative effort among the State of Hawaii, County of Maui, FEMA, Hawai‘i Community Foundation, Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement and American Red Cross.

In his letter, Akina outlined the strengths of the current plan, which among other objectives seeks to construct 1,050 new homes by July 1, 2024. His proposed additions to the plan — “put together by my team at the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii” — include:

>> Identifying state- and county-owned parcels near sewer and water infrastructure that could be speedily available for homebuilding.

>> Waiving zoning density restrictions.

>> Determining whether certain occupational licensing laws should be waived so out-of-state contractors and skilled tradespeople can help with local housing construction.

>> Exempting from the state and county general excise and transient accommodations taxes any monies landlords are paid by the state, FEMA, the Red Cross or the Council on Native Hawaiian Advancement.

>> Expanding Maui’s emergency permitting statute to speed up permitting wait times, waive building permit fees and cover more types of buildings than just “one- and two-family dwellings and accessory structures.”

For details about each of these proposals, please read Akina’s complete letter here.

Akina closed by noting: “We share your goal of finding housing quickly for the many Maui residents displaced by the August 2023 wildfires, and I hope you will consider these suggestions we have made that could improve the effectiveness of the plan. … My best wishes to all of you as you do good work on behalf of the Maui fire survivors.”

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