Faith Action for Community Equity (FACE) Maui is strongly behind the proposed Olowalu master plan project. It is one of the last proposed mixed-use development projects to offer significant numbers of new affordable housing for local families. What makes the
Olowalu Town project so valuable is that it will provide opportunities for working families to either purchase or rent housing at an affordable level, creating opportunities for families to benefit from this project.
I have seen Maui change throughout my lifetime on this island. More traffic congestion, loss of our natural resources, a maxed-out infrastructure (sewers, water) and, for many of the local folks, a loss of sense of place.
A lot of people born and raised here are no longer living in Hawaii. They have moved to places where housing is more affordable and jobs are more available. There are places on the Mainland that have a high number of Native Hawaiians and, in fact, one-third of the Native Hawaiian population lives on the Mainland. This is not so hard to believe when they can buy homes at half of the cost of homes on this island.
People are confused because there is so much talk about affordable housing on Maui. What is affordable and who is it affordable for? FACE Maui's definition for "affordable" means housing a family of four earning a combined income of $100,000 a year or less. It is likely that these families can reasonably afford to purchase a home. The average income for a family of four on Maui is about $70,000. FACE Maui believes it is essential to build homes for our local families and this is why we support this project.
There has been no shortage of proposed housing projects that have included affordable housing components. Unfortunately, each of these developments was defeated by other competing issues or priorities. We need to consider the needs of our growing population, and we, as a community, need to prioritize our land use planning decisions to reflect our local families' needs and desires.
Families are struggling and need to face some hard realities if they want to afford a home of their own - living on Maui, where they were born and raised, and in the community that shaped their identity, values and culture and with the support of their friends and families, or living on the Mainland where they could afford to purchase a home, make a decent living and have access to a decent education for their children. This heartbreaking reality tears apart families that have lived on this island for generations and frustratingly watch opportunities which could help address this problem be continually turned down.
The Olowalu Town master plan is the latest proposed project to provide opportunities for working families to stay on the island. It represents the chance to build 750 affordable housing units on Maui - a mix of rental and homeownership. It was planned with community input, including Olowalu families (1,350 participants at the first planning event), and offers to provide many community benefits, including moving the highway away from the ocean resources to lessen the impact on the reef. It will provide acres and acres of green space and parks and a community cultural center.
We know that the Olowalu Town planner and developers are strategically addressing the impacts and are providing mitigating measures that will curb any adverse impacts. We know that families have basic housing needs that we as a community must address. Families need and deserve a place to live; someplace they can call their own at a price they can really afford.
I appreciate the small-town concept that Olowalu Town has firsthand because I lived in a small town and appreciate that this project has been designed to preserve the small-town character of Maui.
FACE Maui hopes that the affordable housing element of this project will be given the rightful top priority.
* FACE Maui is a nonprofit organization made up of 25 member churches and organizations on Maui working together to build justice and equity on the island. Thelma Akita-Kealoha is the chairwoman of the FACE Maui Housing Task Force.