The community of Maui County responded immediately to Maui’s devastating fires on August 8, 2023. From beach landings of food and support for the people of Lahaina, to the many ensuing fundraisers, we showed up for each other before any official programs. This included DMI staff, though dealing with their own grief over the fires, who activated volunteer efforts, supported housing needs for fire victims and collected donations.

As we turn toward the next phase of recovery and rebuilding, we see collaborative efforts grow, including public and private partnerships. Follows is one of the most recent examples, abbreviated for length from a press release dated January 5, 2024, Lahaina Maui.

The collective effort, called the “Maui Interim Housing Plan” commits to securing a pool of 3,000 housing units with 18-month commitments to provide a stable place for households displaced by the Maui fires, currently residing in short-term hotels.

In response to the urgent housing needs caused by the August 8, 2023 Maui wildfires, government and nonprofit partners launched the Maui Interim Housing Plan, collectively committing $500 million to create a pool of more than 3,000 stable housing units with 18-month commitments. One of the future build sites included in the plan is located in Maui Lanai, and is a collaborative effort bringing together the state of Hawai‘i, County of Maui, Hawai‘i Community Foundation (HCF), Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement (CNHA), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and the American Red Cross (ARC).

The collective goal is to move all individuals and families who are in short-term hotels into long-term stable housing by July 1, 2024.

Solidifying their commitment through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), the partners aim to address the immediate housing needs of individuals and families currently residing in short-term hotels. This ambitious initiative ensures stability and a sense of security during these challenging times and provides individuals and families an opportunity to look forward.

“FEMA’s financial assistance has been a critical piece to addressing the immediate housing needs on Maui,” said Governor Josh Green, M.D. “In addition to the $250M FEMA is providing for hoteling and rental assistance to individuals, FEMA is currently leasing approximately 1,500 units to house survivors and is designing multiple group sites to house up to 500 households in Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs). The estimated costs for these efforts total an additional $450M, which greatly enhances our ability to house all who need it. This partnership is unprecedented and critical to our collective success as a state.”

Maui County Mayor Richard Bissen said, “We want families to know there is a long-term future for them on Maui—and it starts with providing housing stability right now.”

Governor Green and Mayor Bissen have been actively working with FEMA to extend their commitment to house affected families in existing short-term hotels, as this transition occurs.

Currently, 2,400-plus households, totaling over 5,928 individuals, remain housed in more than 30 hotels throughout Maui, in a program of non-congregate sheltering facilitated by the American Red Cross. The Maui Interim Housing Plan outlines a phased approach to delivering housing, prioritizing options that produce permanent housing, efficient use of funds, and readiness for move-in by survivors. The plan includes: residents returning to original unharmed residences, the Host Housing Support Program, direct leasing, short-term rental transitions to long-term rentals, and new permanent developments.

“We mahalo our more than 250,000 donors from around the world who gave to the Maui Strong Fund. It’s with their support that we can ensure that individuals and families affected by the fires can have hope for their next chapter,” said Hawaiʻi Community Foundation President and CEO Micah Kāne. “This is just one of the many ways that HCF is convening partners and deploying its resources to support Maui’s people and places.”

The Host Housing Support Program administered by CNHA started as a pilot project in October. It currently provides financial assistance to more than 200 households throughout the state, who are housing more than 500 affected individuals and families. CNHA anticipates that 300 more households will sign up for the program in the coming months.

“There is no easy solution to address the housing crisis on Maui. It’s a kāko‘o effort that will take government, private sector, philanthropy and the community working in partnership to overcome this crisis situation,” said CNHA President and CEO Kūhiō Lewis. “The road ahead will be long and challenging, but not impossible when we do it together.”

The Memorandum of Understanding, developed under the Maui County Office of Recovery Office (OOR), led by acting Managing Director Josiah Nishita, follows the FEMA National Disaster Recovery Framework. Members of the MOU are already meeting regularly to drive scalable solutions to assist the more than 12,000 individuals affected by the Maui fires.

“The collaborative work occurring between state, county, the philanthropic and nonprofit communities on behalf of Maui, is unprecedented in ensuring everyone, including the most vulnerable, have the resources they need to recover,” said FEMA Region 9 Administrator, Robert J. Fenton, Jr. “The action of this partnership, so early in the recovery process, demonstrates the commitment at the local level to support the Maui community.”

“The Maui community is strong — we have seen that strength expressed daily by the individuals and families we continue to support in more than 30 hotels across the island,” said American Red Cross Director of Wildfire Long Term Recovery Programs Amanda Ree. “We’re proud to be working together with our partners to support the transition to more permanent housing solutions, and help those affected on their road to recovery.”

Beyond individuals housed in Maui hotels, more than 1,000 households, including undocumented individuals, Compacts of Free Association migrants, and previously houseless individuals, are estimated to be residing on the neighbor islands.

The collaborative initiative aims to extend its reach to these populations through innovative programs. The parties have committed initial contributions as follows:

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)      $250,000,000
State of Hawai‘i                                                         $150,000,000
County of Maui                                                            $40,000,000
Hawai‘i Community Foundation, Maui Strong Fund       $50,000,000
CNHA, Kākoʻo Maui Fund                                              $5,000,000
Other Philanthropy                                                        $5,000,000

Total:                      $500,000,000

For more information:

Office of the Governor, State of Hawai‘i
Makana McClellan

Office of the Mayor, County of Maui
Mahina Martin

Hawai‘i Community Foundation
Sheila Sarhangi

Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement
Dawn Hirai