Affordable Housing in Maui

Maui Weather Today…More of the same.

Affordable Housing in Maui

Aloha!

People write to ask me about living in Maui, and how to afford it. One of the ways that many locals make it work is to build an Ohana. “Ohana” means family in Hawaiian, but in this case refers to a living space, technically attached to the main house. Like an in-law unit.

When we built our house we added an attached ohana. It’s one-bedroom with a nice sized covered lanai, and it shares one wall with our part of the house, which makes the main house more like a duplex. This is a smart move in Hawaii, as many people can’t afford to buy, so it’s a win-win for everybody.

Until it’s not. We got spoiled with our very first tenant, a woman with a big Labrador. She also loved our cat, Lili, and was in fact a vet tech.  “Auntie Amy” as we called her, was heaven sent: she was quiet, clean, and loved to take care of Lili if we had to leave the island (and even took it upon herself to vacuum the house because Lili has allergies to dust and red dirt). I am not making this up. Auntie Amy was with us for five years. I kinda hoped she’d stay till she was eighty.

But then Auntie Amy got cancer and was down for about a year. Then it came back, and she decided she had to move. That’s when we found out about Crazy Tenants.

Crazy Tenants are people who look good on paper but in fact will make you question your own sanity for renting to them.There was Bernard, the old Japanese carpenter who was from Oahu and wanted a temporary place to live while he built a house on Maui. He signed the lease and the next thing we knew he had covered up all the windows with brown paper grocery bags and the place was emitting a very strange odor, like fish left out for two weeks. Then Mike came around the corner and found Bernard changing the locks. A no-no, and against the lease (how can a landlord get in if there’s a fire or a dead person in there?) He muttered something and Mike realized he was paranoid and possibly schizophrenic. His daughter threatened to sue us because there was a spot in the sidewalk that was raised a quarter of an inch and he might trip on it. Bernard moved out.

Then there was the Maui fireman (Mike was a fireman, so we figured this was a sure bet) who lived in the unit for almost six weeks. Then, when the yearly influx of German cockroaches began (it was a  particularly bad year) he accused us of hiding them from him. Um…so we were like keeping them in a cardboard box and only released them once he’d lived there six weeks? Another one moved out.

Then there was Crazy Katie. She promptly moved a boyfriend in (breaking the lease) and then got a cat without permission. We are animal people…we just told her she’d need a pet addendum to the lease. She refused. She started sending strange emails and quoting landlord/tenant code to us. About the time it appeared she was going to spin out, she moved. We breathed a sigh of relief.

After that came a girl who shall remain nameless because she was so scary. I thought I was going to spin out with that one. And each time we said, “We sure miss Auntie Amy.” And we surely did.

These people all appeared normal and looked great on paper. Appearances are deceiving.

This last go-round, we gave up on Maui people and imported a couple from Alaska. Mike teases that he had to import me from California…so we figured it could work with tenants, too. They are a joy. They are quiet and polite and we are happy. They tell us they are happy too.

Affordable housing in Maui? An ohana really only makes your mortgage more affordable if you aren’t putting up with Crazy Tenants.

A hui hou (til next time). If you’d like to subscribe to this blog, please click the Follow button on the Home Page.

Aloha, Jamaica

Progress

Progress

Aloha!

There have been lots of changes in the 12 years since I began going to Oahu’s North Shore. So much of what passes for progress is really just a tearing down of the old and established.

In the old days people build a simple beach shack on the waterfront. Now those shacks are being torn down and fancy mansions are going in. This is all outside money, locals can’t afford to buy beachfront anymore. Just as anywhere, someone will always have deeper pockets. But the simple, laid-back beach lifestyle seems to be disappearing. Any given weekend on the North Shore shows cars lined up, jockeying for positions to park. People who own land get aggravated, trying to keep tourists from parking on their lawns, and in their driveways. Mike finally had to sink posts and string chain across his mom’s lawn to keep Tourist’s off it. There is a 30-year-old avocado tree in her yard there with the best avocados I’ve ever had. The pit is small, and the flesh is like butter. People come along and pick the avocados without asking, and one girl was picking so many she was reselling them at a fruit-stand. Not cool.

Here is a before photo of a beach shack on the North Shore, right at waterfront:

North Shore Beach Shack

They tore down the house next to it, and here is the brand new one being built:

New Beachfront House, North Shore

It may become a vacation rental, which will mean a clash of the old and the new, with lots of people, cars and loud parties.

Mike has three brothers and someday they will be faced with the decision to keep the beach house or sell for a tidy sum. I don’t know which way it will go, but I do know the North Shore is not the laid-back place it was. And people from thirty or fifty years ago would really have some stories to tell.

As Carly Simon sang, These are the Good Old Days.

A hui hou (til next time) . If you’d like to subscribe to this blog, please click the Follow Button on the Homepage.

Aloha, Jamaica

 

What is Pono?

Maui Weather Today: High 85, Low 70

What is Pono?

Aloha!

While visiting the North Shore, we ate at Ola’s Restaurant. It’s at the Turtle Bay Resort, http://www.turtlebayresort.com, the only hotel on Oahu’s North Shore. It’s also the only restaurant on the sand on Oahu. We like it because the food is good, and we go order from the bar menu which keeps the price down. As far as I’m concerned, you can’t beat it for the killer view.

Turns out a guy we know is now managing the restaurant. We were happily surprised to see him there, and then he told us how he got the job. They asked him three questions:
What is Ohana?
What is Pono?
And what is Aloha?

Can you answer these questions? Being able to answer these questions will give you a huge leg-up in Hawaii. I feel like an outsider here, always. And after thirteen years, I really don’t think that’s ever going to change. However, understanding what is important to the Hawaiian people makes a difference. You will see the bumper stickers: Respect the Culture. They had a monarchy and it was overthrown and they have never forgotten. Activists in the 1970’s revived the issues and there is a contingent pushing for seceeding from the U.S. Did you know that? When you live here, you are well aware of it.

Living Upcountry, we see far fewer tourists. Friends who are visiting go to the Foodland Center in Pukalani and come home and say, “Why are the locals so unfriendly? Why doesn’t anybody smile?” This is because they don’t have their  “luau” faces on. This is their daily lives, they don’t have to be “on.”

What is Pono? Do what is right.

And what is right? Respect.

A hui hou ( till next time). If you’d like to subscribe to this blog, please click the Follow button on the Homepage.

Aloha, Jamaica

North Shore Oahu

Aloha!

Today this blog is coming to you from the North Shore of Oahu:

Ke’Iki Beach, North Shore

Always when we get to Mike’s Mom’s North Shore house, I am struck by how moldy everything is. When a house is a half-block from the beach, there is salt spray, then dirt and mold grows on top of that .Also, the house sits in the trees

North Shore House

which keeps it cool, but the mold likes that even better. If no one has been here in months it can take a week to clean it all, easy (the geckos think they own the place, and gecko poop is like cement) but the beauty of having the beach a half block away usually makes it all worth it. I love this beach because it has trees that overhang it.

Ke’Iki Beach. North Shore

Someone told me when I first moved to Hawaii that Hawaii is best done in the shade. I thought they were crazy. Now I crave the shade, especially after having a suspicious spot removed twice from my nose. One friend calls living in Hawaii the “20 year skin-cancer plan.”

Last night there was a wedding at the beach. The groomsmen all wore long-sleeved white dress shirts with khaki pants which they rolled up to keep them out of the surf and sand. The bridesmaids all wore bright yellow sundresses. The ringbearer, who was about three years old, also had a white long sleeve shirt, khaki pants and a teeny tiny yellow tie that matched the sundresses. It appeared to be a destination wedding but where were the parents? There were no parents or grandparents in evidence. To me that is not a wedding.

One of the things I love about the North Shore is a hike in the mountains where I rarely see anyone else. A problem on Maui at times is that it has become so overrun with tourists. When you vacation on Maui it is not so obvious, but when you live here and have guests and want to take them hiking, it’s frustrating.

In the same way that Maui has many different personalities each island has a distinct personality. So within Oahu are many different personalities also. The North Shore is determined to retain its laid-back charm. The motto here is “Keep the Country country.” Currently there are plans to build an old-style hotel in downtown Haliewa. If you Google photos of Haliewa, the old hotel on the river was spectacular. Andy Anderson wants to re-create that, however the locals want a Beachpark and restrooms. I don’t live here; who am I to say who is right or wrong?
It is easy to get worked up about issues like this on Maui but as a tourist to a Oahu, it doesn’t affect my day-to-day life. Isn’t this true no matter where you live?

I would say in all the years I’ve been coming to the North Shore, the biggest change has been the traffic, it used to feel like the Country, and the traffic was in “town.” But that was BTB: “Before The Book” that changed everything. In Maui, it was “Maui Revealed“, then the other islands got their own versions. At my job we called it “that damn book”, because it gave every last secret away…every hiking spot, every waterfall. It made the locals crazy, there was no place left for just us. On Oahu they must have written about the turtles on the North Shore, because the tourists swarm the spot on the highway where the turtles are on the beach, darting across the highway at every point helter-skelter, and tying up traffic into an irritating snarl. What should be a ten-minute trip into Haleiwa Town becomes 30 minutes or an hour…just what we want to do on vacation. Then winter comes with the big swells, and more traffic from the surf contests. There is no escaping it now
I am here, resting and playing and hiking…and sitting in traffic. Not the North Shore we all used to know.

Thought for the day: All intellectual improvement arises from leisure.

A hui hou (til next time). If you’d like to subscribe to this blog, please click the Follow button on the Home Page.

Aloha, Jamaica

Holo Holo

Holo Holo

Aloha!

We are off to Oahu…in the islands we say holo holo. If you watched The Descendents, George Clooney’s character said this when his family landed on Kauai and he ran into his cousin: “just a little holo holo.” Meaning “we are off on a little getaway.”

We have friends visiting from France and will take them to the North Shore of Oahu, because Max is a surfer (even though the waves are manini —small, in the summer). And we will visit with Mike’s mom at her house on the North Shore.

I’ll be sharing more of my paradise with you as soon as we return!

A hui hou,

Aloha, Jamaica

Where you stay?

Maui Weather today: don’t care what they say…it’s windy, chilly and looks like RAIN Upcountry! A very unusual summer.

Where you stay?

Aloha!

In pidgin, “Where you stay?” means where are you…or where do you live? We got invited to a friends’ house for dinner Sunday night. They live near Makawao, and I started thinking about why people live where they do on Maui, and on the way I snapped these horses:

Makawao Horses

And then the rainbow behind them got brighter:

Maui Horses

When I moved to Maui I had only been Upcountry once, on vacation. “Upcountry” refers to the area at the base of Haleakala mountain and includes the communities of Kula, Pukalani, Olinda, Makawao and Haiku, plus surrounding areas. When I vacationed here, someone told me it was where the “normal” people lived (whatever normal is!) meaning full-time Maui residents who wanted to buy a house and not live in a condo. Other than that, I had no idea that there were cowboys and horses and ranches and a Polo Club http://www.mauipoloclub.com/. up here. We went one Sunday to watch Polo and it was a lot of fun.

Makes sense that the country music station is out of Makawao. You see cowboys and cowgirls in boots and Western wear here in this cowpoke town. I thought for a brief moment that it might be fun to own a horse until my friend Jody, who had a horse, clued me in on what it costs to keep one fed on Maui. Nev-er mind. People who live Upcountry are different from those who live in say, Lahaina, and usually the twain shall never meet. Friends we knew from when we lived on the Westside have never been to our home Upcountry, including the formal invite to our Hawaiian house-blessing that we had with a Kumu presiding, complete with maile lei. The general attitude seems to be “We live in Lahaina, we don’t GO Upcountry.” (We don’t need no stinkin’ Upcountry!)

I did an informal poll at the dinner gathering Sunday night. Why do you live where you live on Maui? Our group included a guy who lives in Kihei to be near his job, but is from Madison, WI. (Shout out to my sister Marcia and her husband Richard in Madison!) He said when you’re from the Midwest, the pull to Maui is agricultural. That a Japanese farmer in Maui is no different from a strapping German farmer in Wisconsin. As I toured my friend Wendy’s property that evening I was struck again by how much Makawao looks like Indiana, where I was a kid. Horses and cows and fields. Rapsberry bushes running wild along Wendy’s fence row, just like in Michigan, where she grew up. They say you can never go home again…but do you think we try to recreate what we had as children? It that really why I live Upcountry?

What about you…if you moved to Maui, where would you choose to live and why? The real question is: how would you design your life? Many who live on Maui wish they had a place at the beach for in the winter and a place Upcountry for in the summer when it’s hot. In our dreams!

I saw a funny Facebook post the other day. Someone was vacationing on Maui and said, “I didn’t know until this trip that there was any hiking at all on Maui! I was always all about, ‘Why would anyone ever leave the beach?'”

Exactly. The reasons are as many and varied as the people. The carpenter from Kula who helped us build our house, in referring to Lahaina said, “That’s Disneyland down there.”  Another friend who’d lived in Lahaina but moved Upcountry said that she “grew weary of the transience: everyone’s just there for a year or two…there’s no real sense of community”. And yet the Lahaina people can’t understand why Upcountry people would ever live away from the ocean. For Mike and me, it was a matter of 1) being better able to afford a house, 2) cooler weather (he napped all the time when we lived down there, it was SO hot, he never naps Upcountry and 3) we eventually got our fill of the crowds. Especially Mike. I thought maybe a vein was going to pop in his head or something…

Example: you go to Safeway in Lahaina and the tourists, who have no idea where anything is, have their carts parked sideways, blocking the aisles. And they drive sooo slowly. Looking at the scenery, or more likely, lost.  And clueless that we need to be somewhere, like now. I totally understand this, because as a tourist in Napa Valley a couple of years ago, I nonchalantly headed out from my hotel onto the old two-lane highway for breakfast one morning, and when I glanced in my rearview mirror, a local girl was making a rude gesture and pounding her fist on her watch. Then she sped around me. Stupid tourist, indeed. Yes, they have jobs and time schedules, but don’t they know I’m on vacation?

On Maui, do tourists realize we have jobs, doctor’s appts and dentist appts. to get to, kids to pick up from school…just like they do back at home? Vacation is a bubble people live in for a brief moment that they wish could last and last…so they stretch it out. Slowwwllly.

I find it one of the most interesting phenomenoms that people stake out their little corner of Maui and don’t leave it. You tell yourself you won’t do that when you move here…but somehow it happens. Maybe it’s the winding road into Lahaina that keeps people from going over there. And then you certainly don’t want to drink at a restaurant and then drive that road back home. Or maybe it’s that people work over there and don’t want to drive back over for entertainment? But how does that explain that Lahaina people who don’t want to leave there? Seriously.

Here’s my parting story: when I began my women’s group on Maui, the group of women met for the first time. The idea was to rotate houses for the meetings. There was one girl, April, who lived in Kihei. The rest of us were Upcountry folk. When Karen heard that April was from Kihei she said heatedly, “I am NOT driving to Kihei.” This, my friends, is is a thirty-minute drive, and no one wants to do it. Don’t ask me why, I can’t explain it. I lived in the corn fields of Indiana where we drove thirty minutes for a gallon of milk.

They say there are beach people and mountain people. Maybe it’s as simple as that.

Where you stay?

A hui hou (til next time). If you’d like to subscribe to this blog, please click the Follow button on the Home Page.

Aloha, Jamaica

Your Opinion, Please

Maui Weather Today: High of 84, Low of 72

Your Opinion, Please

Aloha!

Sociologists tell us that the reason we are never quite satisfied is in our hunting and gathering DNA. If our ancestors had been satisfied after finding those first berries, they would not have kept looking for more, and would have starved to death.

So here in Paradise, the something more that many of us wish for is 1) A Target store (it’s in talks) 2) a Trader Joe’s (will never happen) and 3) lower prices (ain’t never gonna happen.) Or is it?

There is something all over the Maui news sources now that I wanted to get your opinion on. A developer from the Mainland is trying to build a huge Outlet Mall in Kihei. Many locals don’t want it, they say it will just cause traffic and congestion.  One of our biggest concerns here on Maui is that we don’t want to become Oahu. If we wanted to live on Oahu, we’d move there. The developers maintain that it will be good for the economy here and create jobs.

The people on both sides of the argument seem to be missing the bigger picture:

1) how are they going to keep prices low, at Outlet Store prices, when they have paid to ship this merchandise across the ocean? and

2) Who is really going to shop there?

Your opinion please: Would you spend your time shopping at an Outlet Mall on Maui?

What do you mainly come to Maui to do? Relax? Swim/go to the beach? Boating/Diving/Water activities? Hiking? Driving around to see the scenery?

Shopping on Maui? And if so, what do you buy? Souveniers? Clothing?

My experience with Outlet Malls is limited, though I do know people who are addicted to them and basically plan their trips to the East coast around them. It seems these malls are always full of merchandise that didn’t sell well otherwise. And here’s something I’ve always wondered about chain stores in Maui in general: how do they move the Winter merchandise? If you walk into the Gap or Banana Republic in the Shops at Wailea and see boots and hats in there, are you moved to buy them and take them home? Because I know the Mauians aren’t buying them. Unless of course someone is making a trip to cold country, but my experience has been that when I really needed something like that, it wasn’t in the stores right then anyway.

So let’s say the Outlet Mall goes in. Who is really going to buy those winter goods and haul them home, when they can get them back in Milwaukee just fine? Also, and this is the biggee for me–airlines now charge good money for bags that used to be free.

So are you really going to come to Maui and fill up a suitcase at an Outlet Mall and pay to haul the stuff home? Are you going to spend your time on Maui shopping at an Outlet Mall, or will you think “I could do this back home”? I will tally the responses I get and submit them as a Letter to the Editor of both The Maui News http://mauinews.com/ and The Maui Weekly http://mauiweekly.com/ Your opinion, please…

And if you are local, are you in favor of the Outlet Mall?

A hui hou (til next time). If you’d like to subscribe to this blog, please click the Follow button on the Home Page.

Aloha, Jamaica