Lahaina homes face 20% turnover in 3 years

A fence surrounds a neighborhood devastated by the Lahaina wildfire in August 2023, in Lahaina. (George F. Lee / Honolulu Star-Advertiser)

A new report released Monday by the Hawai‘i Land Trust indicates that without intervention Lahaina could see an estimated 6.5% of residential properties totaling $122 million change hands over a year, and within three years a 20% turnover of ownership equating to at least $360 million.

The figures, which come from a report titled, “‘Aina Retention for Lahaina, Expanding community ownership to build community resilience in Maui Komohana,” are based on an average of a 15% increase in residential sales as documented in other disaster-ravaged communities.


Funded by the KL Felicitas Foundation, the report was prepared for the nonprofit HILT by Kahalawai Consulting principal Jonathan Likeke Scheuer and Maui-born and based associate Marina Starleaf Riker, who lost the home she was renting in the Kula fires. They analyzed Maui County property sales, assessments and tax data. They also reviewed studies on previous disasters in Florida, Louisiana and California, and concluded that disaster-fueled real estate speculation could widen wealth inequality and drive displacement.

The Aug. 8 Maui wildfires killed at least 101 people, burned nearly 3,000 acres and destroyed or left uninhabitable some 3,900 structures, most of them homes and many that housed mul­tiple families. The loss of housing only exacerbated Maui’s shortage of affordable housing, and rental prices have increased ever since. In the aftermath, 3,000 families — 7,796 survivors — were initially housed in 40 hotels.

The challenges have made it difficult for some to hold on to their Lahaina homes despite significant public and private aid. According to the new report, in the six months after the wildfires, more than $25 million in real estate was sold in Lahaina, and more broadly, communities from Kaanapali to Kapalua saw more than $189 million in transactions.

‘Olu Campbell, HILT president and CEO, said that’s why a key takeaway of the report is that the expansion of community ownership of real estate in West Maui is one of the few solutions that could make homeownership more accessible and build the wealth of local families.

He said in a statement, “Land trusts can help stabilize a community after a disaster, preserving the inseparable connection between people and aina, ranging from affordable housing to commercial space to farmland to critical ecosystems.”

Campbell told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that Hawaii already has at least a dozen existing land trusts, which acquire and hold community interests in real estate and steward properties ranging from affordable housing to commercial space to farmlands and critical ecosystems.

He said historically, HILT has not engaged in community-based residential models like Na Hale o Maui, a community land trust that was doing housing work on Maui before the fires, or the Lahaina Community Land Trust, which was formed soon after the Maui wildfires.

Campbell said HILT has discussed engaging in residential community-based models but has not determined whether it will proceed. He said the purpose of the study was to supply research to provide the community with proven models that have helped other disaster-ravaged communities build resilience. Visit to read the study.

“Land trusts are just one model. We saw in the report there are a whole bunch of different models of community ownership,” Campbell said. “We really wanted to understand that broader context so that it could inform our own organization and it could inform others exploring similar options. We hope it will provide information to help people make more informed decisions.”

Mikey Burke, LCLT president, whose family survived the fire but lost their home in the disaster, issued a statement expressing gratitude for the report, “which shines a bright light on what a powerful force community land trusts can be for social justice, anti-displacement, and community empowerment.”

“In our hardest times, we realize the strength we have as a community. We really are stronger together,” she said. “LCLT is committed to preserving the identity of Lahaina by protecting land and holding space for local families to stay and have a future in Lahaina. The people are the spirit of this place, and that spirit is strong.”

LCLT interim Director Autumn Ness told the Star- Advertiser that expanding community ownership in West Maui early would buy the community time to work through the process to reenvision Lahaina and stave off land loss.

She said LCLT has received $15 million from Maui County for the coming 2024-2025 fiscal year and has applications pending for about $20 million in grants. Ness said not every Maui home will be saved from outside purchases; however, she regards any save as a major win.

“LCLT and everyone we work with, our first goal is that everyone who wants to stay on their land, we will turn (over) every stone to see if we can get them the resources to do that,” Ness said. “They are saying 20% of Lahaina real estate could change hands within three years. That’s a fifth of our community — that will change the face of Lahaina forever.”

Burke said LCLT is intimately familiar with the scenarios in the study; however, “the data behind it was still very shocking. It gave us greater resolve to say we need to do this. We need to do this because the character of the people in our community is worth more than $300 million.”

Equity also was a major topic in the report, which cites a 2018 study by the University of Pittsburgh and Rice University that found “that people who are white, own homes, and have college educations generally see their wealth increase in disasters’ aftermaths. In contrast, people of color, renters and those without higher levels of education are more likely to lose jobs, be displaced and pay higher rents when existing housing shortages are made even more acute.”

According to that 2018 study, counties that received greater amounts of aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency saw wealth inequities grow, mainly as “a result of insurance payouts and federal disaster dollars, which are tied to losses of owned property, rather than personal loss.”

A troublesome finding of the report was a chasm between Maui wages and housing costs and its negative impact on homeownership. Even before the fires, owner-occupied housing in Maui made up less than 25% of the housing stock, and there were nearly three times more short-term rentals and investor-owned homes. Rising real estate speculation meant that between 2019 and 2023 more than 25% of Lahaina properties changed hands.

Lahaina’s median single- family home price a month before the Maui wildfires was $1.3 million — almost 30 times more than Maui County’s per capita income.

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