SB2027: Housing approval standards should be objective

The following testimony was submitted by the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii for consideration by the Senate Committee on Housing on Jan. 25, 2024.

Jan. 25, 2024
1 p.m.
Conference Room 225 & Videoconference

To: Senate Committee on Housing
      Senator Stanley Chang, Chair
      Senator Troy Hashimoto, Vice-Chair

From: Grassroot Institute of Hawaii
            Ted Kefalas, Director of strategic campaigns


Comments only

Aloha Chair Chang, Vice-Chair Hashimoto and members of the Committee,

Thank you for considering SB2027, which would prohibit the counties from disapproving certain housing developments and temporary shelters unless they abide by quantifiable, objective standards.

The Economic Research Organization at the University of Hawai‘i has determined that Hawaii’s housing approval system is one of the slowest in the country,[1] and slow, uncertain approval processes increase housing prices for buyers and renters.[2]

One reason for the slowness is that final say over many proposed housing projects often lies with the many political bodies at the county level, such as planning departments, planning commissions and county councils.

This increases uncertainty for prospective homebuilders, and many of them — for-profit and nonprofit alike — often opt to forego risking the time and money needed to obtain the necessary approvals. This means fewer homes are built.

SB2027 could help provide more certainty to prospective homebuilders by requiring that the counties use objective standards when voting on whether to approve a proposed housing development.

Thank you for the opportunity to testify.

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,” UHERO, April 14, 2022, p. 6.
[2] Paul Emrath, “How Government Regulation Affects the Price of a New Home,” National Association of Homebuilders, Economics and Housing Policy Group, 2011, p. 5; and Adam Millsap, Samuel Staley and Vittorio Nastasi, “Assessing the Effects of Local Impact Fees and Land-use Regulations on Workforce Housing in Florida,” James Madison Institute, Dec. 11, 2018, p. 19.

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