By Timothy Hurley
Advertiser Maui County Bureau
LAHAINA, Maui An improving economy and tight housing market on Maui have created a boon for landlords, who can charge premium rents. But theres a downside: Many low-income residents are unable to afford the increasing cost of housing.
Help may be on the way, at least for those struggling to the make the rent on Mauis west side.
Ka Hale A Ke Ola, the nonprofit organization that runs a homeless resource center in Central Maui, is proposing to construct a $3.5 million West Side Resource Center on five acres of undeveloped land near the Lahaina Recreation Center off Shaw Street.
The projects final environmental assessment was published yesterday, and the Maui County Council is expected to take up the project in the coming weeks.
"Theres a huge demand for housing, particularly on the west side," said Alice Lee, director of the county Department of Housing and Human Concerns. "Theres also a serious problem with homelessness, especially considering the transient nature of the west side."
Charles Ridings, executive director of Ka Hale A Ke Ola, said theres a growing need for programs and housing designed to assist the West Mauis needy in moving from a state of homelessness and dependency to self-sufficiency and independence.
The projects initial phase would include an 11,000-square-foot homeless resource center with 42 dormitory beds, eight studio and eight two-bedroom apartments for transitional housing, and 10 two-bedroom apartments for long-term affordable rental housing.
Subsequent phases would provide 32 short-term housing units and 20 long-term units. A child-care center also may be built.
Construction of the projects initial $3.2 million phase could begin by spring, if the council approves land dedication by Amfac/JMB-Hawaii and a fast-track affordable-housing review process to speed construction along, Lee said. Later phases will depend on financing.
The need for a West Maui homeless shelter was identified by the Committee on Homelessness convened by former Mayor Linda Lingle in 1992.
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