Maui Mayor Supports Rollback Of Environmental Rules, Cites Housing Shortage

Jan 24, 2020

Following a meeting with President Donald Trump, Maui Mayor Mike Victorino came out in support Friday of Trump’s plan to loosen federal environmental rules on development.

Victorino made the remarks in Washington where he was attending the U.S. Conference of Mayors annual winter meeting. He told HPR in a phone interview that mayors met with the president on Friday to discuss his proposal.

Earlier this month, Trump announced he was seeking to ease restrictions in place under the National Environmental Policy Act.

“The United States will not be able to compete and prosper in the 21st Century if we continue to allow a broken and outdated bureaucratic system hold us back from building what we need,” Trump said at a Jan. 9 press conference, flanked by cabinet secretaries and the leaders of several industry groups.

Specifically, the president wants to speed up the required assessments of a proposed project’s impact on the environment, which Trump said can currently take seven years or more. He wants that cut down to two or three years.

After meeting with Trump, Victorino expressed support for the idea.

“Reducing the amount of red tape I think it's going to help us really start to build without so much time constraint,” the first-term mayor said.

Maui, like the state at large, is facing a housing shortage. A 2015 state estimate projected Maui County would need 15,000 new housing units by 2025. Victorino says, the county is currently nowhere near that.

“We're averaging about three to four hundred new units per year. That is not near enough to keep up with the demand. We’ve gotta accelerate now, at least for the next two or three years to get at least even with what we need.”

In 2019, the median price of a home on Maui edged above $800,000 for the first time. Prices remain   Mayor Victorino said he would be willing to revisit stricter rules once the housing shortage has been solved.

Maui County is in the process of purchasing land in Central Maui to develop affordable rental units. Victorino said he hopes 750 to 1000 units will be complete by 2021.

The County is also cracking down on the use of homes as short term vacation rentals units, levying fines of $20,000 against the operators of illegal rental units.

The Trump Administration’s proposed changes to the National Environmental Act were officially published in the Federal Register on January 10th.

Public comments will be accepted until March 10th via online submission, fax, or mail.