Mixed-zoning via SB2011 SD1 would provide Hawaii families more housing options

The following testimony was submitted by the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii for consideration by the Senate Committees on Ways and Means and Judiciary on March 1, 2024.

March 1,  2024, 10 a.m.
Hawaii State Capitol
Conference Room 016 and Videoconference

To: Senate Committee on Judiciary
      Sen. Karl Rhoads, Chair
      Sen. Mike Gabbard, Vice-Chair

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


Aloha Chair Rhoads, Vice-Chair Gabbard and other Committee Members,

The Grassroot Institute of Hawaii would like to offer its support for SB2011 SD1, which would allow the construction of multifamily units in commercial and industrial zoning districts in each county.

In a recent report, Grassroot discussed how mixed-use buildings were common prior to the advent of the automobile:

“It was normal for watchmakers, bakers, lawyers and all sorts of other business people to live in the same buildings in which they worked,” the report said. “Their stores or offices were usually on the bottom floors, and their living quarters were typically on the floor or floors above or in an apartment in back.”[1]

This bill mirrors one of the suggestions we put forward to promote such mixed-use neighborhoods. We said the counties should allow “residential uses in all existing business-related zones. Such residential uses should not be limited to either the ground floor or floors above the ground floor; all floors should be available for use as dwelling units.”[2]

The walkable neighborhoods these mixed-use buildings encourage have many positive health benefits and save people money on transportation. Just as important, they give people a variety of neighborhood styles to choose from when deciding where to live.

Building more housing in urban areas also would alleviate a much-raised concern: the availability of water and wastewater infrastructure. Fewer new pipes would need to be installed on the suburban fringe if existing buildings were retrofitted with housing units or old buildings were demolished and replaced with new housing.

By passing SB2011, the Legislature would enable the construction of more housing options for Hawaii residents.

Thank you for the opportunity to testify.

Ted Kefalas
Director of Strategic Campaigns
Grassroot Institute of Hawaii

[1]  Jonathan Helton, “How to facilitate more homebuilding in Hawaii,” Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, December 2023, p. 15.
[2] Ibid, p. 16.

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