A center geared toward helping Maui residents qualify for permanent affordable housing has opened in Wailuku.
The Maui Financial Opportunity Center launched as a public-private partnership by Maui County, Hawaii Community Foundation and Hawaiian Community Assets, the organizations announced in a news release Wednesday.
The center aims to help 3,000 Maui residents and families in qualifying for affordable rentals and mortgage financing over the course of three years.
“The Financial Opportunity Center will work directly with our Maui County residents to ensure that they have the support they need to build the life they want here at home,” Mayor Michael Victorino said in the news release.
Maui County and the Hawaii Community Foundation each provided matching funds of $250,000, for a total of $500,000, to launch and operate the center.
The facility will be run by the nonprofit Hawaiian Community Assets, whose certified counselors provide free individualized counseling to assist Maui residents in creating a financial action plan to build savings, pay down debt and improve credit with the goal of securing and sustaining permanent, affordable housing. Services also include assistance with enrollment in grants or loan programs that can help with rental deposits or payment for the first month, a down payment or closing costs on a house and career coaching that can help residents increase their income and ability to rent or own their own homes.
When people meet with a counselor and are ready to purchase a home, the nonprofit partners with Hawaii Community Lending to offer consumer and affordable housing loans as well as mortgage packaging and brokering services. Qualified residents will be paired with rent and for-sale units that currently exist or are built by nonprofit and for-profit homebuilders.
The percentage of cost-burdened households in Maui County (spending 30 percent or more on housing) is 50.8 percent, the highest of any county in the state, according to a 2019 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development report.
“When local families reduce the amount of income that is spent on housing, it has a positive impact on them individually and on the community,” said Michelle Kauhane, senior vice president of Community Grants & Initiatives at HCF. “Stable housing provides the security that keiki need to be able to focus on school and allows adults to perform at their jobs and spend dollars in other critical areas, such as food.”
The center in Wailuku marks the return of Hawaiian Community Assets to the island where it was first started by longtime housing advocates and Maui residents Blossom Feiteira and Kehaulani Filimoeatu.
“It doesn’t matter what financial situation residents are in; we can help do a financial checkup in which individuals can better understand their earnings, budget and path to becoming a renter or a homeowner, especially since there are incredible opportunities right now with historic low interest rates and flexible federal mortgage loans program,” said Jeff Gilbreath, interim executive director of Hawaiian Community Assets. “For those who may be struggling during this pandemic, or even before, we want you to come to a professional counselor to find the resources you need to make your financial situation better.”
Located at 24 N. Church Street, Suite 210, the center can accommodate in-person appointments with proper social distancing.
Maui residents interested in receiving services should visit www.HawaiianCommunity.net and click “client intake.” Call 727-8870 to talk with a certified counselor or email email@example.com for more information.