Since the wake of the 2008 economic worldwide calamity, South Maui has faced alarming rates of foreclosures and job loss. Although recent legislation has slowed the foreclosure trend, a tremendous spike is expected in upcoming months as our mandated moratorium has ceased and landmark federal lawsuits will soon resolve. First, we need to create jobs for the people of Maui by prioritizing infrastructure improvements and incentives for business. However, it is too simple to say "if people have jobs, mortgages will be paid, and foreclosures will be no more."
Opportunities for a typical, middle-class family to afford a home are dminishing. Even for college graduates, it is often impossible to purchase a house on the island that they always considered home. Home prices are double and sometimes nearly triple the price of comparable homes on most areas in the mainland. This is likely why so many of our brightest young people transfer to or remain in the mainland after graduation. Many become professionals, entrepreneurs, teachers, and do great things for their communities. But imagine if all that energy, intelligence, and community building was focused here! Imagine what kind of future we would have to look forward to.
We need to ensure that while some growth may be inevitable, it is done responsibly and at a sustainable pace. We need to think beyond quick, short-term dollars and recognize the long-term effects of every project--whether it be a big box mall complex or public housing. Spiking property taxes followed by hard-working families losing their homes can be prevented if we plan ahead. We must not build just to build, but rather make sure that every development project has a purpose. It must minimally compete with living affordability for the working family, South Maui's values and way of life, and the natural environment. Banks must be held accountable, affordable housing development must be encouraged, and help and direction must be made available to families facing loss of their homes.