Testimony X 4 — Relating to housing

Photo by Charley Myers

This is a combination of four separate testimonies submitted by the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii for consideration by the Hawaii Senate Committee on Housing on Feb. 9, 2021.

To: Senate Committee on Housing
Sen. Stanley Chang, Chair
Sen. Dru Mamo Kanuha, Vice Chair

From: Grassroot Institute of Hawaii
Joe Kent, Executive Vice President


Comments Only

Dear Chair and Committee Members:

The Grassroot Institute of Hawaii would like to offer its comments on:

>> SB10, which would require counties to adopt rules allowing educational and religious institutions to build affordable housing units on their property, regardless of existing zoning restrictions.

>> SB1278, which would allow Hawaii’s counties to adopt rules for the construction of fourplex dwellings on lots where single-family dwelling units are permitted.

>> SB1276, which would require each county to adopt ordinances authorizing the construction and occupation of detached dwellings in areas zoned as residential, provided that the dwellings in question meet certain minimum specifications.

>> SB1337, which would authorize counties to create an upzoning program, allowing homeowners within a block in an urban district to vote to increase housing density for that block.

We commend the Legislature for considering new ways to help address the state housing crisis. It is easy to focus solely on new building projects and overlook how much it could help to lift the zoning restrictions that hamper creative solutions to the lack of affordable housing.

Recently, the Grassroot Institute distributed two publications to legislators on the ways zoning and other regulations throttle the growth of housing.

One was our policy report, “Reform the Hawaii LUC to encourage more housing,” which advocates giving the counties more authority to make decisions at the county level, thus reducing the amount of bureaucracy in development and preventing the LUC from becoming a kind of state zoning commission.

The other was a zoning reform toolkit, “How to Build Affordable, Thriving Neighborhoods” which explores different ways to grow housing and improve affordability by reforming state and local zoning restrictions. We summarized proposals from the toolkit in a commentary published in The Maui News, ”50 ways — at least — to update Maui’s zoning code.”

We are pleased to see that these four bills — SB10, SB1278, SB1276 and SB1337 — embrace two principles in the zoning toolkit: They allow for creative options aimed at solving serious social problems related to housing (especially as housing from such institutions will likely be aimed at those with the greatest need), and they reduce the bureaucratic burden involved in building such housing by reducing the political approvals required to move forward.

If enacted, each of these bills would comprise a positive step toward addressing the state housing shortage: 

>> SB10, by allowing religious and educational institutions to build affordable housing on their own land, regardless of existing zoning restrictions.

>> SB1278, by loosening zoning restrictions to allow for the creation of fourplex dwellings.

>> SB1276, by requiring counties to authorize the construction of certain detached dwellings.

>> And SB1337, by allowing urban neighborhoods to vote to increase housing density within their block.

Thank you for the opportunity to submit our comments.


Joe Kent
Executive Vice President,
Grassroot Institute of Hawaii

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