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Maui labor market crisis directly tied to housing

Maui Memorial Medical Center
Maui Memorial Medical Center

Maui businesses are paying close attention to the upcoming election. They're facing two crises that have a connection: a shortage of housing, and a shortage of labor.

Maui Health, with hospitals on Maui, Lānaʻi and Molokaʻi, has 200 vacant positions it needs to fill, said Jim Diegel, chief strategy officer.

The cost, and scarcity, of housing in Maui County is part of the reason. That’s just one example of the interconnected labor and housing shortages explored by five Maui business leaders at PBN’s recent panel event held in Lahaina.

Pamela Tumpap, president of the Maui Chamber of Commerce, said that as of 2017, Maui was 14,000 housing units behind meeting the island’s rental housing needs.

At the time, she projected that by 2021, median home prices would hit $1 million. And they have.

As of September, Maui’s median home price was $1,025,000, up 15% since the start of the year.

Tumpap’s next prediction? Median home prices of $2 million by 2042.

Affordable housing has been the chamber’s top priority, and panelists discussed the merits of specific recent policies.

One of these, Bill 108, approved by Mayor Michael Victorino last month, shows how desperate the situation has become. The bill funds improvements to a Wailuku parking lot as a kind of homeless shelter for people who now live out of their cars.

While our panelists were guarded about endorsing, or dismissing, specific candidates in discussion, they said they were watching the upcoming election closely, hoping for a change toward leadership more open to approving actual housing developments.

A. Kam Napier is the editor-in-chief of Pacific Business News.
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