SB937 SD1: LUC reform could speed up new home construction

The following testimony was submitted by the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii for consideration by the Senate Committee on Judiciary, and the Senate Committee on Ways and Means on March 3, 2023.

March 3, 2023
10 a.m.
Conference Room 211
Via Videoconference

To: Senate Committee on Judiciary
      Senator Karl Rhoads, Chair
      Senator Mike Gabbard, Vice Chair

       Senate Committee on Ways and Means
       Senator Donovan M. Dela Cruz, Chair
       Senator Gilbert S.C. Keith-Agaran, Vice Chair

From: Grassroot Institute of Hawaii
           Ted Kefalas, Director of Strategic Campaigns


Comments Only

Dear Chair and Committee Members:

The Grassroot Institute of Hawaii would like to offer its comments on SB937 SD1, which would streamline the process by which the state Land Use Commission acts on district boundary amendments.

Under this bill, the number of affirmative votes required for a boundary amendment would be reduced from six to a simple majority of LUC members present and qualified to vote.

In addition, the number of days from filing a petition in which the commission must hold a hearing would be reduced from 180 to 120, and the number of days in which the commission must act to approve, deny, or modify the petition would be reduced from 365 to 180.

This bill correctly identifies and addresses one of the major causes for the slow growth of housing in this state: the delays caused by multiple layers of bureaucratic approvals.

Delays in county and state approvals — whether caused by permitting backlogs or the difficulties of navigating Hawaii’s multitiered approval process — are one of the reasons Hawaii’s average approval delay is three times the national mean.[1]

We commend this committee for considering a bill that would reduce such delays at LUC.

Over time, the LUC has evolved into a kind of state-level zoning and approval agency, which has added to the delay and bureaucracy faced by those looking to develop more housing. A Grassroot Institute of Hawaii report, “Reform the Hawaii LUC to encourage more housing,” discussed how state policymakers could encourage the growth of housing by reexamining the role and purpose of the LUC.

The Grassroot Institute report focused heavily on ways to reduce the scope of the LUC, leaving it free to focus on statewide environmental issues and district boundary amendments of conservation lands. But it also promoted the idea of making the LUC more efficient in general.

Further reform should look at ways to continue refocusing the LUC to better achieve its original purpose, but in the short term, this bill would help reduce the wait for housing developments that require LUC approval.

For anyone who wants to see more homes built, enactment of this bill would be an important and very welcome step forward. We urge the committee to pass this bill.

Thank you for the opportunity to submit our comments.


Ted Kefalas
Director of Strategic Campaigns
Grassroot Institute of Hawaii

[1] Rachel Inafuku, Justin Tyndall and Carl Bonham, “Measuring the Burden of Housing Regulation in Hawaii,” Economic Research Organization at the University of Hawaii, April 14, 2022, p.7.

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