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Where’s the heart in our current culture? Spiritual cancer?

There was an absence of homelessness in Hawaiian culture

Where’s the heart in our current culture? Spiritual cancer?

Short term rental properties are literally eating local people out of house and home. With so many property owners cashing in on Hawaiian Culture and the tourism industry (there are an estimated 5-10,000 vacation rentals on Maui, many illegal), affordable rent has gone out the window. When a vacationing tourist can afford $2,000 dollars a week for a one bedroom and even $300 per night in the same sized property, rents for everyone else spiral out of control (even with two incomes, many families are below the poverty line and are eligible for food stamps).

Some say they should go back to school but there aren’t more jobs in mid-level positions and someone has to be on the front lines of corporate america. Cody Nemet Tuivaiti, singer/songwriter and political activist from Kihei believes,”It benefits the government and the wealthy to keep the kama’aina poor and too busy to protect the ‘aina.”

The high price of a rental for a local person (A quick search on Craigslist is proof enough), if one can be found, is such that the renters are spending most of their income just to keep a roof over their family’s head, never mind food and clothing.

Meanwhile, all of the things that locals and tourists love about the islands are suffering; the reefs from runoff, the views from over-development, beach access and overall quality of life. And don’t even start a conversation about traffic. Backed up both ways for a mile out of Paia and they still want more development. And ask anyone who commutes from Lahaina about how completely ineffective the bypass has been in alleviating traffic. I’ve personally spoken to several tourists recently who can’t believe how crowded and congested Maui has become. They also know from visiting over the years that the quality of their vacations are declining and those “get it” know that widening highways isn’t the answer. Just look at the nightmare that is Kam highway in Honolulu. It will suffice to say that Maui can’t take any more. And it won’t be long before Maui isn’t number one on anyone’s top ten list.

Reasons for this disparity:

- The state and federal governments fail to see the need to adjust wages to fit with living costs and they refuse to put a cap on rent prices, tourism and short-term rentals, or even verify the legality of existing short-term rentals. [If the illegal short-term rentals were converted back to long term rentals there would be no housing shortage and rents would drop significantly based on inventory.]

- Owners of short term rentals literally don’t care or are blind to the reality of the local economy.

- The state’s solution, homeless shelters, do their best with what they have but in their current state are merely a band-aid that masks the real problem. Only if the shelters were working toward raising wages, making more properties affordable and perhaps, helping to create more low-income housing situations immediately, the long-term view, the big picture, would be being served. In addition there could be the possibility of income-based housing. The shelters have been in the islands for decades and still believe they are “breaking the cycle of homelessness.”

The cycle of homelessness can only be broken when the big picture is seen by all parties. Local people will only be able to maintain housing when the environment for a liveable existence is created.

Las Vegas is now, sadly, being referred to as the ninth island because it has a Hawaiian ex-patriot population that rivals most of the islands. The Ohana Pu’uwai is fractured. Let’s try to heal it.

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