Maui County is one step closer to beginning a pilot that will: a “safe zone” or “Sleeping Place for the Homeless” in district parking lots for people living in their vehicles.
On Friday, Maui County Council voted unanimously on a first reading to pass a bill that would create the pilot project. Currently, state law prohibits the use of vehicles for human sojourn between 6:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. while parked on roadways, streets, highways, or other public property.
According to a committee report from the council’s Affordable Housing Committee, which discussed the bill and recommended it for passage, state law gave each of the counties the freedom to make ordinances governing the use of vehicles for human habitation.
Many people, including those who are employed, have families on the island and have children who go to school, are forced to sleep in their cars due to a lack of affordable and low-access housing, the report said .
They face many challenges, including subpoenas, fines and other enforcement actions; be a victim of crime; and a lack of basic necessities like water and toilets.
While the Affordable Housing Committee discussed various aspects of a pilot project, such as hours, prohibited activities and safety measures, specific details would be discussed once the project is ready to roll out, the committee report said.
The bill was amended by the committee to ensure parking lots remain open to the general public during regular opening hours. that at least one gate remains unlocked for emergencies; and that the Council reviews the pilot project within 12 months of the start of the project.
The measure now awaits the second and final reading by the full Council.
The pilot project has received an allocation of up to $200,000 in the district’s current fiscal year budget under the Department of Housing and Humanities, Homeless Programs.
Elsewhere, council members approved a resolution for the council’s Planning and Sustainable Land Use Committee to conduct a formal investigation by the county’s planning and public works departments into permits for a large home in Napili that residents and community members are upset about its size and their approval process.
Developer Greg Brown’s home consists of eight bedrooms and two stories. The district last year issued work stoppages for violations of the project, but later reversed the orders. The planning department has stated that the structure has since complied with county laws.
The council also passed two second- and final-reading bills to reduce the property tax burden on residents and severely disabled veterans.
A bill would increase the homeowner’s exemption from $200,000 to $300,000, noting that escalating housing market inflation has significantly increased property valuations, which has led to it “Unacceptable burden on Maui County residents.”
The Homeowner Exemption is a tax break program that currently reduces the taxable estimate by $200,000.
Council members also voted to pass an amended bill that would reduce property taxes on the homes of unmarried surviving partners of veterans who died in the line of duty, as well as severely disabled veterans.
The law would allow veterans with a U.S. Veterans Administration disability rate of 70 percent or more to qualify for a $150 annual property tax bill.
Currently, to receive a reduced bill, the standard requires 100 percent disability.
The measures are scheduled to come into force on January 1st.
* Melissa Tanji can be reached at [email protected]