Landlord summit focuses on finding solutions
yrone Spellman knows firsthand the trials and tribulations of finding a place to call home. He’s had to move more than 20 times in the past 19 years.
“I know what it’s like to not feel safe, secure and stable — and I’m certainly not alone,” he said. “We need to take a deeper look at affordable housing and create more housing opportunities for people, especially those who are most vulnerable. Everyone deserves to feel safe and secure.”
Spellman was one of several panelists who spoke during the second annual Maui Landlord Summit, which was held July 11, at the Maui Beach Hotel in Kahului. Property owners and property managers were invited to attend the free event to learn how they can help reduce homelessness on Maui by making more rentals available to those who need them the most.
Finding safe and affordable housing on Maui is a significant hurdle for low-income or homeless individuals and
Tfamilies. While they may be approved for a subsidized housing program through a local nonprofit agency or have a Section 8 voucher, many face the difficulty of finding a landlord who will approve their rental application.
With that in mind, for the second year in a row, the Realtors Association of Maui joined forces with the County of Maui, the Office of the Governor and several social service agencies to bring landlords and property managers into the same room as the agencies that assist Maui’s housing-challenged residents.
“Maui has a severe housing shortage, and as a leader on housing issues, the Realtors Association of Maui feels it is our duty to raise awareness, educate others and help find solutions,” said RAM Government Affairs Director Lawrence Carnicelli. “This may be only one step, but we, as an organization, are trying to do everything we can.”
This year’s summit began with some encouraging news from Scott Morishige, the governor’s coordinator on homelessness.
“There have been a lot of changes since last year,” he said, noting that, for the first time in eight years, homelessness has decreased in Hawaii, and that includes a 22 percent reduction in Maui County.
Morishige attributed the decline to changes at the state level, as well as community engagement efforts like the Maui Landlord Summit.
“Events like this are critical to keep us moving forward,” he said. “We are starting to turn the tide and see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
Morishige’s announcement was followed by remarks from Maui County Department of Housing and Human Concerns Director Carol Reimann and Maui Homeless Alliance Co-Chair Maude Cumming, as well as two lively panel discussions featuring landlords, tenants and representatives from agencies that provide financial support and other services to Maui’s housing-challenged residents.
One of the panelists, Brandy Aki, a full-time property manager and principal broker of Emerald Club Realty, Inc., was honored as this year’s “Housing Hero” by the Maui Homeless Alliance. The “Housing Hero” award is given to a landlord or property manager who actively works with social service agencies to find rentals for individuals and families who are homeless or at imminent risk of becoming homeless.
“I was taken by complete surprise,” she said. “I am a strong believer in paying it forward. Helping is what I do every day and I am honored to receive this award.”
Aki said she was grateful for the opportunity to participate in one of the summit’s panel discussions.
“As a full-time Realtor and property manager for over 22 years, it was a wonderful experience to share my knowledge with others and hopefully encourage them to support these programs,” she said.
Like so many others in attendance that day, Spellman hopes that Maui will find ways to end homelessness — and soon.
“With your help, no one needs to be homeless,” he said. “We don’t have to wait until the end of the tunnel … the light is already here.”
The Maui Landlord Summit was underwritten by a grant from RAM and the National Association of Realtors. Participants in this year’s event included RAM, the Office of the Governor, Office of the Mayor, Maui County Department of Housing and Human Concerns, Maui Homeless Alliance, Legal Aid Society, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Ka Hale A Ke Ola Homeless Resource Centers, Family Life Center, Women Helping Women, Catholic Charities of Hawaii, Mental Health Kokua and Maui Economic Opportunity, Inc.
Do you know a RAM member who should be recognized for their contributions to the community? If so, send your story idea to Sarah Ruppenthal at firstname.lastname@example.org.
RAM Chief Staff Executive Terry Tolman (from left), RAM member Brandy Aki and RAM President Marilyn Griffin are all smiles as Aki accepts the Maui Homeless Alliance’s “Housing Hero.”