Advocacy Updates

Development of Affordable Rental Units Scheduled for First Reading

The City Council meets on March 8 at 10 A.M., and will hear bills to increase development of affordable rental housing on Oahu. The Affordable Rental Housing Report and Ten-Year Plan (July 2018), published by the Special Action Team on Affordable Rental Housing Report pursuant to Act 127 (Session Laws of Hawai’i 2016), states, in part, “Although many reasons contribute to the lack of affordable rental housing units for low- and moderate-income households, the primary reason is a poor rate of return for investments in affordable rental housing projects.”

As a result, Bill 7 is intended to create a temporary program to accelerate the construction of affordable rental housing on apartment- and business mixed use-zoned properties by relaxing (or reducing) zoning and building code standards and offering financial incentives. The bill recognizes that the cost of land and construction in Honolulu is one of the highest in the country and there are many small parcels that are in apartment and business mixed use zones that have limited development potential due to the high cost to develop affordable rental housing. The current affordable housing crisis could be addressed, in part, by encouraging the development of at least 500 new affordable rental housing units per year on these small parcels.

The purpose of Bill 6 is to increase development opportunities for affordable rental units in low-rise multifamily dwellings in the apartment, apartment mixed use, and business mixed use districts, and to reduce the proliferation of monster homes in residential districts. The bill would allow for development of up to four-story buildings with a 500 square foot studio on the low end and up to a four-bedroom, 2-1/2 bath, 1350 square foot unit on the high end.

The bill defines an “affordable rental dwelling unit” as a dwelling unit rented to a household earning 100 percent and below of the median income determined by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. “Affordable rental low-rise multifamily dwelling” means a multifamily dwelling that is 60 feet or less in height, in which 100 percent of the total number of dwelling units in the multifamily dwelling are affordable rental dwelling units.

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