We’ve all seen the news about real estate prices going down in Maui County (“Maui Real Estate Prices Drive The Needle To New Record Highs,” The Maui News, April 7).
What is less well known, however, is that some longtime residents are selling their single-family homes simply because they cannot afford the necessary renovations. We must take a new and innovative approach to helping residents restore their homes to a condition that will make them safe and allow them long-term living.
Hawaiilife.com reported on the issue on February 28th with an article titled “The cost of home remodeling has you like ‘WHOA?!’ “
And it’s a nationwide issue. On December 16, Better Homes & Garden magazine reported on it “High demand, supply bottlenecks and delays make repairs more complicated – and more expensive.”
A major obstacle for homeowners to qualify for a home improvement loan is the bank’s requirement to have costly approval plan drawings in hand before the loan can be secured. I am drafting laws to break down that barrier for many families.
During the current Council budget meeting, I plan to introduce a proposal for a new $240,000 fund at the Department of Housing and Humanities called The “Home Restoration Grant Program.” The fund will be available to property owners to help them restore – and continue to live in – homes that have already been built but need repairs to make them safe and livable.
The proposed new grant would allow long-term homeowners to afford permit plan drawings so they can qualify for home improvement loans instead of having to sell their homes.
Record home prices — along with soaring tax burdens and maintenance costs — are among the factors making longtime homeowners feel the need to sell their homes. My colleagues and I are taking a variety of approaches to address these issues and enable multigenerational kama’aina families to remain in their homes.
For example, last year I voted jointly with all Council members to pass Bill 118 – the ‘Aina Kupuna Bill – introduced by my colleague Keani Rawlins-Fernandez and recommended for passage by her Budget, Finance and Economic Development Committee . Bill 118, enacted Dec. 6 as enactment 5307, allows descendants of Hawaii who have held onto their family property for the past 80 years to qualify for the lowest rate of property taxes.
Committee Report 21-195, which recommended passage of Bill 118, stated this “Some families have been forced to sell part, or in some cases all, of their property as property tax costs rise as a result of speculation and housing demonstrations in the area.” Families who are forced to sell and evict their homes for any reason is one of the most devastating consequences for Maui County’s social, cultural and economic well-being.
Many older homes occupied by multi-generational families are at risk of falling into disrepair due to a number of factors including exposure to the elements and wear and tear from years of living. Repairing these homes will breathe new life into the dwellings and give working-class families who have lived here for generations a chance to improve their living conditions while giving them a sense of pride and hope for a better future.
The Home Restoration Grant Program fund would also make possible improvements to eliminate hazardous or unhealthy living conditions.
Specifically, the new program would provide $30,000 in grants for eight homes deemed unsafe for human habitation by the Department of Housing and Humanities.
A grant from the Home Restoration Grant Program could be used for the purpose of restoring the home to make it safe for human habitation. Each participating home must be at least 30 years old.
To be eligible for the scholarship, the applicant must have owned the title for at least 10 years or be the direct descendant of an owner who has owned the property for at least 10 years. If the grantee remains the owner of the home for 15 years, the grant will be waived.
If you think this proposed program is a good idea – or if you have ideas on how to make it better – please testify during the budget meeting, which is taking place this month. Please check the calendar and read the certificate instructions at mauicounty.us/2023-budget/.
* Michael J. Molina is Chair of the Government Relations, Ethics and Transparency Committee. He holds the council seat for the Makawao-Haiku-Paia residential area. “Rats 3 minutes” is a column detailing the latest news on county legislative matters. Visit mauicounty.us for more information.