Maui Financial Opportunity Center Opens in Wailuku
A Financial Opportunity Center is now open in Wailuku to provide intervention for economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. The facility was launched as a public-private partnership by Maui County, Hawai‘i Community Foundation and Hawaiian Community Assets to help residents qualify for permanent affordable housing.
Maui County and the Hawai‘i Community Foundation each provided matching funds of $250,000, for a total of $500,000, to launch and operate the FOC.
The FOC is established and run by nonprofit Hawaiian Community Assets, Hawai‘i’s largest HUD-certified housing counseling agency. The organization runs FOCs on Hawai‘i, O‘ahu, and Maui islands and plans to open a location on Kaua‘i in 2021. With its new location in Wailuku, the FOC aims to assist 3,000 Maui residents and families in qualifying for affordable rentals and mortgage financing over the course of three years.
“In partnership with Hawai‘i Community Foundation and Hawaiian Community Assets, the County of Maui remains committed to collaborative solutions that relieve the pressure of our island’s high cost of living,” said Mayor Victorino. “The Financial Opportunity Center will work directly with our Maui County residents to ensure that they have the support they need to build the life they want here at home.”
HCA’s certified counselors provide free individualized counseling to assist Maui residents in creating a financial action plan to build savings, pay down debt and improve credit with the goal of securing and sustaining permanent, affordable housing. Services also include assistance with enrollment in grants or loan programs that can help with rental deposits or payment for the first month, a down payment or closing costs on a house, and career coaching that can help individuals increase their income and ability to rent or own their own homes.
As a one-stop program, when individuals meet with a FOC counselor and are ready to purchase a home, HCA partners with its community development financial institution, Hawai‘i Community Lending (HCL),
to offer consumer and affordable housing loans as well as mortgage packaging and brokering services to
help make the dream of homeownership a reality. Qualified residents will be paired with rent and for-sale units that currently exist or are built by nonprofit and for-profit home builders.
The percentage of cost burdened Households in Maui County (spending 30% or more on housing) is 50.8% which is the highest of any County in the State of Hawai‘i, according a 2019 HUD report.
“When local families reduce the amount of income that is spent on housing, it has a positive impact on them individually and on the community. Stable housing provides the security that keiki need to be able to focus on school and allows adults to perform at their jobs and spend dollars in other critical areas, such as food,” said Michelle Kauhane, Senior Vice President of Community Grants & Initiatives at HCF. “In partnership with Maui County and Hawaiian Community Assets, Hawai‘i Community Foundation is focused on reducing the cost burden of housing, with the goal of creating a better life for Maui residents.”
This year, HCA celebrates 20 years of operations and the FOC’s establishment on Maui marks the organization’s return to the island where the nonprofit started by long-time housing advocates and Maui residents, Blossom Feiteira and Kehaulani Filimoeatu.
“It doesn’t matter what financial situation residents are in; we can help do a financial checkup in which individuals can better understand their earnings, budget, and path to becoming a renter or a home owner, especially since there are incredible opportunities right now with historic low interest rates and flexible federal mortgage loans program.,” said Jeff Gilbreath, interim executive director of Hawaiian Community Assets. “For those who may be struggling during this pandemic, or even before, we want you to come to a professional counselor to find the resources you need to make your financial situation better.”
Since its founding in the Paukukalo homestead in 2000, HCA has provided free financial education to more than 20,000 Hawai‘i residents and helped 1,818 households secure or sustain affordable housing. Together, HCA and HCL have assisted Hawai‘i’s low- and moderate-income communities access over $160 million in capital for affordable housing through grants, loans, and mortgage financing. In 2017, the organizations’ service delivery approach was recognized in Brandeis University’s Foundations for the Future report as a national best practice in economic empowerment for native communities and communities of color.