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Allowing bigger houses on farm land could ease housing crisis

The following testimony was submitted by the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii for consideration by the Maui County Planning Commission on Jan. 9, 2024.
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Jan. 9, 2024, 9 a.m.

To: Kellie Pali, Chair
Kim Thayer, Vice-Chair
Maui County Planning Commission

From: Jonathan Helton, Policy researcher
Grassroot Institute of Hawaii

Comments on agenda item B(1)

Aloha Chair Pali, Vice-Chair Thayer and members of the Commission,

Thank you for hearing the Maui County Council’s draft bill that proposes to increase the allowable square footage of a second farm dwelling in the Agricultural District from 1,000 square feet to 1,500 square feet.

Currently, the Maui County Code allows two farm dwellings per agricultural lot, but it states that one of these dwellings may be no larger than 1,000 square feet.[1] The other dwelling may be of any size, so long as the living area of both farm dwellings isn’t larger than 10% of the lot’s total area.

The Grassroot Institute of Hawaii believes that increasing the allowable density of the second dwelling could help provide more housing in Maui County.

An additional 500 square feet of living space could provide several new rooms, which could be used for a growing family or an elderly relative, or as a rental for a person or family displaced by the August 2023 wildfires.

Because the proposed bill would not change the 10% total area limit, the Commission could suggest that the Council remove the square footage limit for the second dwelling entirely. This would allow the lot’s owner to decide how to allocate the living area between the two dwellings.

For some agricultural lots, it might make more sense to build two houses of similar sizes, instead of one large house and one small house.

The Grassroot Institute discusses similar strategies to boost the housing stock in its most recent policy brief “How to facilitate more homebuilding in Hawaii,” which can be read or downloaded for free at the Grassroot Institute website.

Thank you for the opportunity to offer our comments.

Jonathan Helton
Policy researcher
Grassroot Institute of Hawaii
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[1] Section 19.30A.050 – Permitted uses, Subsection B(1), and Section 19.30A.030 – District standards, Subsection D, Maui County Code, accessed Jan. 4, 2024.

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