Bills passed to change housing price guidelines, protect wetlands | News, Sports, Jobs

The Maui News

The Maui County Council approved a bill on Tuesday that would create new guidelines for the sales price of county-subsidized housing units in hopes of keeping prices more in reach of local residents.

Bill 107, which passed on second and final reading, adjusts guidelines to include a maximum monthly payment — including principle, interest, taxes and insurance — of 31 percent of the homeowner’s income in county-subsidized developments.

The measure would also provide a program within the Home Acquisition and Ownership Programs Revolving Fund to help homebuyers when a developer does not receive direct county subsidies.

“Maui County’s median sales price for houses is more than $1 million — making it nearly impossible for most local workers and middle-class families to obtain homeownership,” Council Member Gate Johnson, who chairs the Affordable Housing Committee, said in a news release Tuesday. “Maui County also has the highest ‘affordable housing’ prices in the state, and this bill will now ensure that more local residents will qualify for affordable housing and workforce housing opportunities.”

Johnson said the Comprehensive Affordable Housing Plan, commissioned by the council last year, recommended adjusting the guidelines.

“The county should support, with money from the Affordable Housing Fund, responsible developers who will work with our residents,” said Johnson, who holds the Lanai residency seat. “We have the tools to directly support affordable housing and new homeowners, and it’s time to use them.”

On Tuesday, the council also passed a bill on second and final reading that would establish a policy to protect and restore wetlands.

Under Bill 91, wetland areas will be identified and mapped if they contain at least two indicators of hydrology (evidence of groundwater, hydric soils and hydric vegetation). The legislation intends to prohibit the loss of additional wetlands to development and ensure the perpetuation of these areas that help maintain a healthy watershed, according to a news releae from Council Member Kelly Takaya King on Wednesday.

King pointed out that wetlands offer habitat for important species and also help capture and filter runoff during storms.

“Wetlands are essential for environmental health, biodiversity, protection of the marine environment and coral reefs, flood mitigation and protection of property and fresh water resources,” said King, who chairs the Climate Action, Resilience and Environment Committee. “Wetlands play an important role in Hawaiian culture, and we rely on them for erosion control and protection of endangered species as well as freshwater and ocean water quality.”

South Maui experiences frequent major flooding — causing significant erosion, power outages, transportation delays and other issues — as seen recently during the Kona low storm that hit the islands in December, the news release said. Flooding also impacted South Maui coastal areas earlier this month after nearly two inches of rain fell in a short period of time.

“In December 2021, we were able to see what happens when you try to wipe out a wetlands system from existence,” said testifier Brandi Corpuz. “We need this wetlands bill to help stop several projects proposed on our wetlands and to protect what little bit of wetland resources we have left in Maui County.”

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