Given that “hurry up”, Maui County Council voted to allow the county to use up to $11 million to purchase the Lahaina Crossroads apartments where residents were asked to vacate earlier this year.
“This is a pressing matter as we have a willing seller at the moment and we have people living in unstable housing conditions,” Council member Tamara Paltin, who occupies the West Maui residence seat, said at a reconvened council meeting Tuesday morning.
Tenants of the 20-unit building at 767 Luakini Street received vacancy notices in June so that the units could be renovated and converted into transitional vacation rentals or a hotel, which is permitted by current zoning.
Long-term tenants, including pensioners on fixed incomes, are expected to leave and find accommodation elsewhere.
In July, Paltin introduced a resolution that was later passed, urging council to allow the apartment complex to be purchased for the benefit of long-term tenants.
Due to “public outcry” on the loss of housing, Paltin said the county should move “rapidly”.
Councilman Gabe Johnson fully supported the bill, saying the county should follow the “Premier model accommodation.”
“But how can we do housing first when we don’t have housing? So having a building already there, already built, you can allow our people to be in a home that they need right now, there’s no waiting list,” says Johnson. “It should happen more than this one time. It is a way forward. We should consider other buildings and seize them for our workforce and affordable housing.
Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino had asked for up to $11 million to purchase the Lahaina Crossroads building, though final appraisals to determine building costs are still being assessed, Paltin said, meaning it could cost less than $11 million.
Still, council members are hopeful the county will buy the complex before another buyer makes a higher offer.
The property is owned by Hassan, Atef M and Khetam M Trust, according to Maui County tax records.
“From what I’ve heard is that if the county doesn’t buy it, they can make a lot more by selling it to off-island interests for hotel purposes, so with anything is a trade-off and as Member Johnson said, we have to be diligent before these middlemen get it,” she says. “If that fails, there’s no doubt off-island interests will pay far more than $11 million and it’ll be a hotel, there’s no doubt in my mind.”
Referring to the county’s current dilemma over acquiring 257 acres in the Maalaea Mauka/Pohakea watershed from developer Peter Martin, who beat them to the sale, council member Kelly King said they had seen what could happen if “We are not moving fast enough.
“I support this bill. I think we learned a hard lesson when we were negotiating with Maalaea Mauka who was ousted under us,” said King, who holds the South Maui residence seat. “(Lahaina Crossroads) is a valuable purchase for Maui County, so I think we should stay focused on getting people into affordable housing and trying to get this deal done.”
Councilman Mike Molina said the county should take advantage of the opportunity to purchase the apartment complex. Otherwise, the owner could get “tired of waiting” and choose another buyer.
“What we certainly don’t need is more voters facing the prospect of homelessness, so this is an act of compassion on the part of MP Paltin and the rest of us. who are going to support this”, Molina said.
Council Chair Alice Lee and Council Members Shane Sinenci, Yuki Lei Sugimura, Tasha Kama, King, Molina, Johnson and Paltin supported the bill. Council Vice Chairman Keani Rawlins-Fernandez was excused.
“Let this be a lesson to all of us that we need to be more proactive and get these types of properties before speculators do and preserve our housing inventory,” said Paltine. “It’s a hard lesson to learn, an expensive lesson, but we cannot allow it to continue because we are already struggling and it will get worse.”
* Dakota Grossman can be reached at [email protected]