Residents of Front Street apartments on Maui can finally see a glimmer of hope, as the Senate Housing Committee today advanced Senate Bill 2293 that would mandate the State to start negotiations to either keeping the units affordable, or to acquire the property.
Many of the tenants were not aware of the pending threat of being homeless. The apartment owners recently opted to take out the affordability requirements, a discretion linked to the property’s development. The change would let them rent the apartments at housing market rates, increasing rental costs to much more than residents can afford.
If SB2293 becomes law, the tenants, surrounding community, and the island of Maui would benefit from this state intervention, according to the bill. If an agreement to either extending the affordable rents or acquire the property is not made within a reasonable time, state public and private funds would provide the financing for the acquisition.
Like every community, Maui residents are the heartbeat of its character and culture. In recent years, they have fallen under the weight of the housing market.
“The Front Street apartment issue is just one example of how we at the Legislature can make a difference,” said Sen. Will Espero (Dist. 19 – ‘Ewa Beach, Ocean Pointe, ‘Ewa by Gentry, Iroquois Point, portion of ‘Ewa Villages), Chair of the Senate Committee on Housing. “Hawai‘i’s cost of living is the highest in the nation, and it’s a shame that families struggle in our communities. Passing SB 2293 will help many working-class families with affordable housing.”
“I have lived here for the past twelve years and expected to live here until I die,” according to Kathryn Snyder, a long-time Fort Street resident, who submitted testimony for the hearing. “I am 82 years old, I retired to Maui for 23 years ago and live on the same income. I do not want to become homeless. This is very stressful not knowing what is going to happen.”
The Front Street apartments in Lahaina, Maui provide affordable housing to more than 250 low-income residents. They were built in 2001 as an affordable rental housing project, using state financing and tax credits.