Maui panel urges state to keep apartment complex affordable
WAILUKU, Hawaii (AP) — A Maui County Council committee approved a resolution urging Hawaii’s governor and lawmakers to keep an apartment complex affordable amid the possibility that rents could rise to market rates in 2019.
Members of the Housing, Human Services and Transportation Committee said the move this week is not a solution but they plan to keep trying to persuade lawmakers to take action on the Front Street Apartments in Lahaina, The Maui News reported .
“It’s going to take more than just approving this today,” Bob Carroll, a committee member, said Thursday. “It’s going to take one-on-one talking to our legislators, actually going to Honolulu and making an all-out effort.”
State and private developers built the 142-unit complex as an affordable housing project in 2001. About 250 to 300 people live there, paying lower-than-average amounts for an area that has among the highest rents on the island.
Low-income housing projects are expected to stay affordable for 50 years, said Carol Reimann, director of the county Department of Housing and Human Concerns.
But the federal tax code was changed in 2012 to allow investors to sell such projects after 14 years, said Gary Kubota, who serves as a community liaison for the tenants.
The state intended to buy the complex when it went on the market, but it was listed for $15.4 million. The state could not legally buy it because the price was above the appraised value of $8.7 million. The owners could not find a buyer within a year, so they are allowed to raise rents in August 2019.
Lawmakers introduced measures earlier this year aimed at keeping the apartments affordable. The House legislation died in February, and the Senate bill was tabled in April.
State Sen. Roz Baker, a Democrat whose district includes the apartment complex, said it is a top priority and she plans to introduce another measure.
“What I think we want to do is make sure that we keep the property in the range for folks that are currently living there,” Baker said. “We think we have a pathway, and we’re going to continue to pursue it.”
Information from: The Maui News, http://www.mauinews.com