Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Housing chief gets an earful on Maui amid concerns over emergency housing effort


HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – The governor’s housing chief didn’t get a warm welcome on Maui this week, with some resident complaining the state’s emergency housing initiative will cut out public input and trample environmental protections as the island seeks to rebuild.

State Housing Chief Nani Medeiros was on Maui to help facilitate both immediate emergency needs and build support for the governor’s emergency plan to speed up housing construction in general.

But first she had to deny she was here to lead a power grab for redevelopment of Lahaina.

Medeiros said Lahaina is off the table for her working group, which will certify projects for speedier construction. She also reassured the Maui County Council that the working group would respect the sensibilities of the island and environmental law, despite promises to cut red tape.

“The idea that this is Nani Medeiros, all alone, making all of these decisions and so much power, it’s absolutely not true,” she said.

Jason Economou, of the Realtor Association of Maui, was among those who raised concerns in council testimony. “We don’t need an unelected official rubber stamping things as our means of government,” he said. “That’s not what we were intended for. We have a charter for a reason.”

To deal with thousands of people displaced by the fires, Madeiros is urging owners of the more than 10,000 vacation rentals on Maui to make them available as rentals.

They could be paid for by federal aid or insurance, she said.

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