Lahaina residents worry a rebuilt Maui town could slip into the hands of affluent outsiders

by Gabriel Martinez
fokus keyword Lahaina

The people of Lahaina, a town in Maui, are fearful that the rebuilding of their community might attract wealthy outsiders. Richy Palalay, who has deep roots in the town and even bears a tattoo of “Lahaina Grown” on his arms, shares these concerns.

A long-standing housing crisis and an increase in affluent individuals seeking second homes have pushed local residents like Palalay out, threatening the town’s unique character and identity.

The recent wildfire that devastated most of the small coastal settlement has exacerbated these fears. There is concern that the rebuilding effort will focus on creating a tropical sanctuary for wealthy newcomers, thus accelerating an existing problem in Hawaii: the departure and displacement of native and locally-born residents who find it financially impossible to stay.

Palalay expressed his worry that large land developers might exploit the burned land as a chance to erect unaffordable hotels and condos. Born and raised in Lahaina, 25-year-old Palalay had worked his way up in a local seafood restaurant until the fire laid waste to the town, including his workplace and neighborhood, and took 93 lives.

The disaster affected more than 80% of over 2,700 structures in Lahaina, leaving 4,500 residents in need of shelter. The typical wage earner is already struggling to afford a home, with the median house price at $1.2 million and the median condo price at $850,000.

Sterling Higa, the head of a nonprofit advocating for housing in Hawaii, has observed that Lahaina has seen a blend of generations-old family homes and gentrification, resulting in local families being pushed out.

Rebuilding may be further complicated by slow insurance payouts and inadequate funds, recalling the struggles many faced after Hurricane Iniki in 1992. But Palalay remains determined to stay, even willing to participate in the reconstruction himself.

During a visit with FEMA, Gov. Josh Green expressed a commitment to preserving Lahaina for its locals, contemplating state acquisition of land for workforce housing or a memorial for those lost.

He emphasized, “We want Lahaina to be a part of Hawaii forever. We don’t want it to be another example of people being priced out of paradise.”

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about fokus keyword Lahaina

What happened to the town of Lahaina?

A fast-moving wildfire devastated over 80% of Lahaina, damaging or destroying more than 2,700 structures, killing at least 93 people, and leaving 4,500 residents in need of shelter.

Who is Richy Palalay and why is he significant to this story?

Richy Palalay is a Lahaina resident who identifies strongly with his hometown. His story represents the connection that local residents feel to Lahaina, as well as their fears of displacement and gentrification.

What are the concerns about rebuilding Lahaina?

The residents are worried that rebuilding the town will attract affluent outsiders and large developers, leading to the construction of unaffordable properties. This could further displace native and locally-born residents who already struggle with the housing crisis.

What is the government’s response to the situation?

Governor Josh Green expressed a commitment to keeping Lahaina affordable for locals after rebuilding. He is considering state acquisition of land to use for workforce housing or as a memorial for those lost in the fire.

How has gentrification previously affected Lahaina?

Gentrification has been occurring in Lahaina, with newer, wealthier arrivals from the mainland buying homes at higher prices, displacing local families. The median price of a home is $1.2 million, and even a condo is out of reach for many at $850,000.

What are some of the challenges residents may face in rebuilding?

Residents may struggle with slow insurance payouts and inadequate funds to rebuild or rent/buy alternate property. This mirrors the problems faced on Kauai after Hurricane Iniki in 1992, where people struggled for years to get insurance payments.

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Sara T. August 13, 2023 - 7:35 pm

richy’s story is so touching, it’s like he represents the soul of the town. I hope they can rebuild without losing their identity.

Larry_o22 August 13, 2023 - 11:06 pm

gentrification is ruining so many places. now Lahaina. Wealthy outsiders shouldn’t push out the locals, it’s their home!

Mike Jansen August 14, 2023 - 4:42 am

I can’t belive what’s happened to Lahaina. These folks are strugglin already, now this. Where’s the support they need?

Kathy M August 14, 2023 - 4:42 am

This is just heartbreaking. the photos of the fire were awful. Can’t even imagine what they’re going through, the uncertainty of rebuilding and all…

Timothy90 August 14, 2023 - 8:59 am

1.2 mil for a house? That’s crazy. people can’t even afford a condo, and now a fire. What’s next? The government better step in.


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