Bringing Affordable Housing to Maui Residents

Opihi Monitoring_Kipahulu_Group Shot_Alana Yurkanin
Families working with the Financial Opportunity Center to increase their financial readiness to purchase a home on Maui

In one of the least affordable housing markets in the nation, the House Maui Initiative is working to bring home ownership within the reach of Island families.

For Maui resident Franklin Bromberg, home ownership had always seemed out of reach. Not only is the local housing market one of the highest priced and most competitive in the nation, Franklin was overwhelmed by the logistics of saving up a down payment, qualifying for a mortgage and making an offer on a home. Even though he has a successful career with Mahi Pono, a farming company working to transform former Maui sugar cane land into diversified agriculture, it sometimes felt as though he’d be renting forever.

But after he put his name on the list for the affordable housing development Hale Kaiola, he was contacted by Hawaiian Community Assets, a nonprofit financial counseling agency that aims to help Hawai‘i families achieve home ownership through Financial Opportunity Centers (FOCs).

“They reached out to me, assigned me a counselor who I met with regularly,” Bromberg says. “They provided free home-buying courses, went through the whole process of what I need to do, what I need to save for the down payment. It was a really great process.”

In Hawai‘i, FOCs, which provide financial coaching to moderate-income families to find ways to reduce their housing cost burden, have become crucial resources to help families and individuals like Bromberg navigate the exceptional challenges of Hawai‘i’s housing market. The Island of Maui is where these challenges are most acute and complex.

Complex problems require multi-part solutions. Working in public-private partnership with Maui County and HCF’s new House Maui Initiative, which brings together the island’s diverse stakeholders with the goal of creating a truly sustainable housing market on Maui (both for potential buyers and renters), Hawaiian Community Assets was able to open and staff a dedicated Maui office in December 2020. They set an ambitious goal of helping more than 1,000 in their first year—and they more than met it, with 1,153 people enrolling in the FOC in 2021.

How do these programs make a difference? House Maui Initiative director Keoni Kuoha says that, while many tools and opportunities exist for potential buyers of affordable housing, accessing some of them can a real hurdle: “It’s really, really complicated,” he says.

Kuoha says FOCs offer clients “someone who knows the affordable housing ecosystem to hold your hand and say, ‘Hey, I know what your situation is. These are the products that are going to work for you, so let’s work on applications for them.’”

In doing so, they create more of what the system calls “qualified buyers.” “If there aren’t enough qualified applicants, those houses turn to market rate and go at market prices,” says Kuoha. In 2021, of 332 Maui County units that were designated as workforce (affordable) housing, just 117, or 35 percent, found qualified buyers who were able to navigate the affordable housing qualification system. House Maui’s intention is to increase that number to 100 percent.

“The vision,” says Kuoha, “is that our communities can be maintained intact. Because attrition happens little by little, sometimes we miss the big picture that our communities are being fractured. Grandparents and grandchildren have an ocean separating them.”

Educating potential home buyers and renters is just one part of the puzzle, of course. The House Maui Initiative has three main pillars: Aligning federal, state, and county resources to create regional infrastructure for affordable housing, Educating and Empowering Maui residents, and Organizing and Engaging with nonprofits, government, and the private sector to advocate for regulatory and public policy changes.

Bromberg hasn’t yet moved into a home of his own yet. But he did become a winner in the phase one lottery for a residential workforce housing unit in the Upcountry Maui development, Hoku‘ula, which is still in construction. While he waits for this house to be ready, he’s continuing to save up his down payment and bolster his finances with the help of HCA.

“I've made this big leap toward buying a home,” Bromberg says. “Hawaiian Community Assets guided me through every step. It was so helpful.”

To learn more about House Maui, visit