State Land Use Commission has not approved housing in the past 3 years

The State Land Use Commission has not approved housing in the past three years, according to data obtained by the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii.

This may have choked the creation of additional housing across the state, and has led to higher prices for the housing that does exist.

The data obtained from the commission shows that the last project to be approved was in 2013. However since the end of 2013 to date, no new projects have been approved.

Many projects since then have either been terminated, denied, or are still awaiting approval. Some projects have been weighed down by so many obstacles at the LUC that the petitioners terminated their own projects.

Since the end of 2013, a large turnover in Land Use Commissioners shifted the commission strongly in favor of a no-growth position, as evidenced by the absence in project approvals. Other issues such as bureaucratic hurdles and legal battles have slowed down the process.

Land Use Commission Staff Planner Scott Derrickson helped answer a question posed by the Grassroot Institute, “Is it true that no new housing has been approved by the LUC in the last three years?”

LUC’s response:

This information is posted on the Land Use Commission’s website for anyone to check out for research or general interest at <http://luc.hawaii.gov>.

I’m going to answer your direct question first and then put it in context by providing information on LUC dockets since 2010.  So the answer is that assertion is not true.  Here’s why.

The LUC has approved five dockets between 2013 and the present.  Of those, two were for industrial parks, one for a public high school; and two that had housing as a component.  

However, the two housing projects mentioned by the LUC above were approved in April and November of 2013, which is more than three years ago. This still means that no new projects have been approved since December 2013.

Both projects were in Maui and were approved in 2013.  Total housing units proposed for these two projects total 918 units and by my calculations the number of affordable units would be approximately 323 units.

In context up to the current date (December 2016), the LUC has handled or received 17 petitions for boundary reclassification:

2 have been formally withdrawn by the petitioners;

1 has not been moved forward by the petitioner since 2015 (still a draft EIS);

1 petitioner is actively nearing completion of their Final EIS but has not yet submitted it;

3 petitions are currently pending (2 for schools and 1 for affordable housing)

2 petitions were for industrial park development.

Since 2010, 7 petitions have been approved with housing involved and 2 more are currently pending.  The 7 petitions (1 approved in 2010; 1 approved in 2011; 3 approved in 2012; and 2 approved in 2013) account for a proposed 9,839 housing units.  The number of affordable units is approximate and subject to individual county requirements but I’ve figured it to be at least 3,675 units.

Right now the LUC has one pending petition for an affordable housing project on Kaua`i and another project still in the EIS process on Maui.

Making a decision on projects at the State LUC is required to occur within 365 days of a petition being deemed complete; the exception is for certified 201H (at least 50+% affordable units) that must be done within 45 days.  So, at the State-level a project is either approved or denied (rarely occurs) within one year.  Each county has there own process for a project to navigate and their review and approval time frames vary.

Approval of projects does not guarantee that they will be built.  Many housing projects have been approved during the 1980’s. 90’s. and 2000’s.  Some have been built while others have not.  Perhaps you should also inquire with the individual counties to determine how many of the approved housing units going back to the 1980’s have actually been built.  That’s information that would greatly contribute to any discussion aimed at addressing the current and future housing situation.

Grassroot Institute then asked the LUC, “What is the reason that so few housing projects have been approved by the commission since 2013? Is it because of technical issues?”

LUC responded:

Of five dockets that were filed with the LUC since 2013, only two had housing components.  The LUC approved both of those.  

Again, the LUC means since the beginning of 2013, which is more than three years ago.

We can only process and review housing projects if they are filed with us.  Since 2013 we are at 100% for approving housing projects filed with us.

If the question you are asking is why so few housing projects, I don’t know the answer to that.  We are awaiting several projects’ EIS completion which is a pre-requirement before a petition before us can be deemed complete for processing.  My sense is that it has more to do with financing, pre-development planning cycles, and timing.  Regulatory impediments seem to always be cited as a reason, however as I’ve indicated before, the LUC is mandated to approve or deny any project before us within 365 days (even quicker if it’s a certified affordable housing development –  45 days).

The LUC also included a summary of projects filed to the LUC since 2010, posted below:

Projects filed with the Land Use Commission since 2010

HHFDC/Forest City  201H project– Kona, Hawai`i

  • Filed September 2010 and deemed complete September 2010
  • Approved November 2010
  • 2,330 units (50+% affordable; 1,169 affordable)

Olowalu Town LLC – Lahaina, Maui

  • Filed but incomplete; need for Chapter 343 compliance
  • Final EIS deemed unacceptable
  • Petitioner dropped project at that point

Maui R&T Partners LLC – Kihei, Maui

  • Filed June 2010 and deemed a complete filing May 2013; required Chapter 343 compliance prior to deem complete
  • Approved November 2013
  • 850 units (will comply with Maui County affordable guidelines ~ 30%)

A&B Properties (Wai`ale) – Wailuku, Maui

  • Filed and deemed a complete filing November 2011
  • Approved June 2012
  • 2,550 units (563 affordable)

Kula Ridge LLC – Kula, Maui

  • Filed and deemed complete filing May 5, 2011
  • Approved February 2012
  • 116 units (70 affordable)

HG Kaua`i Joint Venture (Hokua Place) – Kapa`a, Kaua`i

  • Filed but incomplete; need for Chapter 343 compliance
  • LUC agreed to be accepting authority for EIS December 2014
  • Published Draft EIS for comments May 2015
  • No further correspondence from Petitioner since July 2015

Maui Dept. of Housing & Human Concerns 201H project – Lana`i City, Lana`i

  • Filed and deemed complete filing May 2011
  • Approved June 2011
  • 425 units (all affordable)

Castle & Cooke Homes (Koa Ridge) – Central O`ahu, O`ahu

  • Filed and deemed a complete filing November 2011
  • Approved June 2012; first increment approved Koa Ridge Makai
  • 3,500 units (affordable housing condition per City requirements)

State DOE (Kihei High School)

  • Filed and deemed a complete filing February 2013
  • Approved July 2013

West Hawai`i Land Company (Kahoma) – Lahaina, Maui

  • Filed and deemed a complete filing April 2012
  • Approved April 2013
  • 68 units (100% affordable)

Waiko Industrial Investment LLC (Waiko Industrial Park) – Waikapu, Maui

  • Filed and deemed a complete filing October 2012
  • Approved May 2013
  • Light Industrial subdivision

CMBY 2011 Investment LLC – Wailuku, Maui

  • Filed and deemed a complete filing June 2013
  • Approved November 2013
  • Heavy industrial subdivision

Waikapu Properties LLC (Waikapu Country Town) – Waikapu, Maui

  • Filed April 2015 but deemed incomplete May 2015; need for Chapter 343 compliance
  • Final EIS has not been filed with OEQC or LUC as of December 2016

Makila Land Co. LLC – Lahaina, Maui

  • Filed September 2015 but deemed incomplete September 2015; need for Chapter 343 compliance
  • Draft EIS published and comment period conducted; Petitioner requested 15 day extension for comment period November 30, 2015
  • Petitioner terminated project by letter April 2016

Island School – Lihu`e, Kaua`i

  • Filed December 2016 and still under staff review
  • Private PreK-12 school
  • Petition to be heard in early 2017

UH Community Colleges (Kauai CC) – Lihu`e, Kaua`i

  • Filed November 2016 and deemed a complete filing November 30, 2016
  • Required a Declaratory Ruling by LUC prior to deemed complete; DR approved November 23, 2016
  • Petition to be heard in early 2017

Kaua`i County Housing (Lima Ola 201H project) – `Ele`Ele, Kaua`i

  • Filed Notice of Intent to File December 7, 2016
  • Requires a Declaratory Ruling by LUC to waive certain filing requirements prior to deem complete of application; Hearing scheduled for December 22, 2016
  • 550 units (100% affordable)
  • Petition to be heard in early 2017

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