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The Hawaii Business 20 for the Next 20

(page 14 of 21)

    Photo: Rae Huo

Makani Maeva, age 40

Hawaii director of Vitus

It seems, at times, as if real estate development is always about more. More pools. More koa. More waterfalls. Hawaii is fabulous and the real estate built here should meet that challenge.

Makani Maeva is on a different track. As the Hawaii director for Seattle-based Vitus, formerly Pacific Housing Advisors, Maeva is deeply involved in building affordable housing, but affordable with a difference.

“My concerns are creating really safe, quality housing where people can make a home,” she says. “It’s a different thing.”

Make no mistake, Vitus is a for-profit company. But its niche is creating homes for families of modest means. This doesn’t mean cutting corners, Maeva says. It means smart use of tax credits, creative financing and taking advantage of opportunities that emerge, whether they are new projects or rehabilitation jobs.

“We develop housing that is not the minimum,” she says. “We want our customers to feel: ‘I have something nice I can take care of.’ ”

While Maeva was raised in Seattle, her roots are on Molokai, where her Hawaiian grandparents farmed sweet potatoes. She now lives in Kailua with her husband and three children.

“Actually, my first (housing) project was to get my grandparents out of their condemned house on Molokai,” she says. “I guess I have a natural real estate interest.”

After graduating from Pepperdine University and traveling, Maeva came back to Hawaii and worked with developer Stanford Carr on a city affordable-housing project near Kalakaua Avenue.

“We didn’t eventually get it,” she says. “I was 24 years old and didn’t know what I was doing was so difficult.” But she kept at it, in part out of a natural affinity for the challenge of real estate development and in part because what the company was doing made sense.

“I love housing. … Without a good home, you cannot succeed at work, at school, at life.”


1. Randy Baldemor
2. James Bennett
3. Kalei Cadinha-Puaa
4. Kainoa Daines
5. Matthew Delaney
6. Mark Duda
7. Charles Hew-Len
8. Michael Kaleikini
9. Daniel Leuck
10. Jennifer Li Dotson
11. Bryan Luke
12. Wesley Machida
13. Makani Maeva
14. Cameron Nekota
15. Robert Piper
16. Carol Reimann
17. Claire Sullivan
18. Michael Tresler
19. Raymond Vara, Jr.
20. Aulani Wilhelm


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