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Maui’s Middle Class Wipeout

Posted July 03, 2024

Matt Insley

By Matt Insley

Maui’s Middle Class Wipeout

On Wednesday, we asked the following question: What do you think about the balance between technological innovation and environmental considerations?

“I appreciate your writing,” Bill M. writes, “even if I don’t always agree.

“I seldom respond to feedback requests since, most of the time, I doubt I have much to offer.

“However, with more than 50 years working as a mechanical and systems engineer, I have a healthy respect for the concept of nature’s tipping point. 

“From this perspective, I fail to understand Conservatives not seeing the nearness of the climate crisis’ tipping point, given their clear understanding of the national debt’s tipping point!

“All my attempts at rationalizing this discrepancy seem to reduce to a secret it’s-all-about-me mentality without consideration for even our grandchildren. 

“What comes to mind is an event four decades ago when I gave my boss a going-away present — one of those sleep masks people wear at night. 

“On it, I wrote the name of his new company alongside the words ‘Future Vision Goggles.’ The company was sold for scrap not long after.” 

Bold move. 

Also, thanks for not always agreeing with me. That means a lot. 

(If you check out my post-Independence Day issue on Friday, you’ll learn why.)

Now, onto a tipping point of another sort…

Send your opinions to,

Your Rundown for Wednesday, July 3, 2024...

Maui’s Catch-22

Whether you believe climate change contributes to forest fires — or not — the island of Maui is experiencing a housing shortage in the aftermath of the August 2023 Lahaina fire. 

“The fire tore through the historic town, killing at least 101 people and leaving nothing but rubble and ash for blocks,” the AP says. 

The wildfire, in fact, razed the dwellings of some 12,000 Maui residents. 

Even before the wildfire, University of Hawaii researchers underscored Maui’s housing crisis, sparked by insufficient new construction going back to 2019 plus an uptick in short-term vacation rentals. 

Which coincides with something our correspondent wrote Monday: “Airbnb property owners who are taking houses off the market may soon face a social backlash.” 

Soon? Try now… 

Maui’s Mayor Richard Bissen, for example, is confronting a Catch-22. Or, to mix metaphors, a real economic Sophie’s Choice. 

  • On one hand, about 70% of Maui’s economy is directly tied to tourism, according to the Maui Economic Development Board. 
  • On the other hand, about 1,500+ Maui families, affected by the Lahaina fire, still lack permanent housing. 

Mayor Bissen is choosing Maui residents. At least, theoretically. 

“The proposed ordinance would phase out about half of Maui's nearly 14,000 vacation rental units in apartment-zoned districts built before 1989,” says Hawaii Public Radio. 

This would open up about 7,000 units to long-term renters (aka Maui residents). 

But Hawaii economist Paul Brewbaker thinks the mayor’s proposal would amount to a “slow-motion train-wreck” for the island, cutting the number of tourists by 33% and eliminating 14,000 jobs. 

At the same time, when it comes to affordable housing, Harvard Political Review reports: “As the number of Airbnb units in a neighborhood increases, the asking prices for rental units… increase as well.” [Emphasis ours]

Considering 85% of Maui’s short-term rentals, listed on platforms including Airbnb, are owned by non-residents, it’s a high-stakes balancing act: supporting the tourism economy as well as residents’ need for affordable housing. 

To summarize, attempts to regulate the short-term rental market to benefit long-term residents will have unintended economic consequences.

Inevitably, it’s Maui’s middle class — as in the rest of the U.S. — that’s at a tipping point. 

Hang ten… 

Market Rundown for Wednesday, July 3, 2024

The S&P 500 is up about 0.10% to 5,510. 

Oil is slightly in the red at $82.80 for a barrel of WTI. 

Gold is up 1% to $2,358.60 per ounce. 

But Bitcoin’s down 2.35% to $60,400. 

Send your comments and questions to,

Just so you’re aware, we’ll run an issue on Friday — sans market notes. I’ll be taking the day off to enjoy time with the family. 

In the meantime, to our American readers, happy Independence Day! 

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