Maui residents have been bombarded with calls, texts and emails from Realtors, developers and speculators less than a week after the wildfires that wiped out over 2,200 structures. Real estate agents, developers and speculators are offering to buy property from those affected.
Some residents are worried about big companies or wealthy individuals buying up land and developing it. Others have said they are worried if insurance payouts and government assistance don’t come fast enough, survivors may lose hope and sell to people who will quickly gentrify communities.
One person interviewed said, “Trying to profit from people’s tragedy and buy their land at their most desperate time is disgusting.”
Josh Green, the Governor of Hawaii, said he reached out to the state’s Attorney General to explore a moratorium on sales of damaged or destroyed properties. According to the governor’s office, more than 2,200 structures were destroyed with 86% of them being residential.
The primary target appears to be Lahaina, a centuries old community that was the former capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii. Most of the town of 13,000 people was destroyed by the fire last week.
Damages have also caused some to lose their jobs. Those that have lost their jobs worry that they will still have to make mortgage payments on destroyed property.
Even before the fires, Hawaii has been going through an affordable housing crisis. That crisis was created by international buyers who were buying second or third homes to use for vacations or to use as short term rentals (STR).
It is very difficult to develop new hosing in the state. Because of the obstacles, it is driven the prices over the budgets of local families. Many of those families work low-paying hospitality or tourism industry jobs.
According to the most recent US Census data, the median price of a Maui home is approximately $1.2 million while the median price of a condo is $850,000.
The biggest danger is the compensation to rebuild. If it doesn’t come in a timely manner, residents will not be able to cover the cost of rent while they rebuild.
The bottom line is that residents have a tough road in front of them in the recovery process. If you have a trip planned to Maui in the next year, be prepared for the resources of the state to be focused on the rebuilding process and could cause issues with service for tourists.