UHERO Tips for More Affordable Housing in Maui County


Critical Changes to Maui County’s Overall Affordable Housing (MCCAH) A plan is needed to increase the number of affordable housing available, according to a new university in Hawaii Economic Research Organization (UHERO) public impact research report.

The MCCAH A plan has been prepared for the Hawaii Community Foundation by a team of 19 planners, engineers, data and policy analysts, advocates and community development professionals. This is a big step forward in developing cohesive strategies to address the shortage of affordable housing in Maui County for low-income households, the co-authors said. Carl Bonham, UHERO executive director and professor of economics, and Sumner La Croix, UHERO researcher and professor emeritus of economics.

The co-authors called the MCCAH Plan an ambitious roadmap to reform Maui’s regulatory framework governing affordable housing development. It proposes a goal of building 5,000 affordable units within five years of the plan’s launch.

Bonham and La Croix suggested that a few key elements of the plan could be changed and strengthened. They understand:

  • Build more flexibility into the plan by recognizing the uncertain nature of the housing demand estimates that were used in developing the plan.
  • Ensure that the affordable housing offered (Ah) the post of coordinator is outside the particular county departments, since the construction of affordable housing necessarily involves the coordination of activities and the resolution of disputes between several departments.
  • Assign sufficient power to the Ah coordinator to resolve disputes between ministries and to initiate affordable housing fund investment proposals.
  • Ensure that the responsibilities of the community watchdog are carefully delineated and monitored.
  • Eliminate the last minute appeals process for the development proposed by Law.
  • Extend the regulatory framework proposed by right to owners renovating existing multi-family units and to the private development of new multi-family projects.
  • Take a closer look at the financing of the project by examining the sources of tax revenue required for the project, restrictions on the use of bond income and reconsidering abuses by developers who build units at market rates.

“With these changes, we conclude that the plan provides a useful roadmap for developing affordable housing and mitigating the impact on low-income households,” the report said. “The schedule for the plan is ambitious but could be possible if the initial (appropriately amended) regulatory changes are enacted within the next 18 months.”

UHERO is housed in EUH Mānoa College of Social Sciences.

Visit UHEROto view the full report.

This work is an example of EUH Mānoa’s research excellence goal: to advance the research and creative work enterprise (PDF), one of the four objectives identified in the 2015-25 Strategic Plan (PDF), updated in December 2020.


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