Our Islands, Our Future

An affordable housing survey focusing on the West Maui community has just begun circulation to help define the extent of the need for affordable workforce housing upon which the West Maui economy depends. The initiative for the survey came from the community itself, led by long-time resident Lori Sablas, who has spent most of her career in the visitor industry. “My Dad worked for Pioneer Mill and purchased our first home in 1969 for $19,380. Our monthly payment was $104 per month; how times have changed!”

Lori knows the value of home ownership and her motivation is to help the West Maui workforce buy a home near their workplace, just as her Dad did. As the former Director of Ka’anapali Beach Hotel’s Project Po’okela program, she developed educational opportunities for staff to learn about Hawaiian culture. She was also instrumental in bringing West Side hoteliers together to support the commuter bus system and subsidizing fares to reduce traffic congestion and make commuting as easy as possible.

Across Maui County, as elsewhere in the state and nationally, affordable housing is a critical issue as supply fails to keep up with demand. Recent studies have shown that it is an issue that represents a major constraint on economic development, and as the Maui County General Plan states, “When adequate or appropriate housing is unattainable to a large portion of the population, it negatively impacts the entire community and decreases overall quality of life.”

Originally shaped by an informal working group of West Side HR directors and employers led by Lori Sablas and further developed by MEDB, the West Maui Workforce Housing Survey is a first step to defining the need through data provided by residents.  The exercise will better inform our local community, our policymakers, and real estate development companies about the demand for affordable housing. The survey is entirely anonymous and can be accessed online at

In seeking resident input, Lori Sablas notes, “I felt strongly that we need to ask our workforce about this issue and address it from the bottom-up, as opposed to top-down. It’s an initiative than we can deploy in other areas – such as South Maui, if we find the information we collect is useful.”

The West Side Affordable Housing Survey started from a grass-roots level. My sincere hope is that our combined efforts will result in more of our workforce becoming homeowners, just like my Dad did.

Lori Sablas, cultural specialist and community advocate