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HCR122/HR102 would urge counties to adopt YIGBY law

The following testimony was submitted by the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii for consideration by the House Committee on Housing on March 20, 2024.
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March 20, 2024, 10 a.m.
Hawaii State Capitol
Conference Room 312 and Videoconference

 To: House Committee on Housing
       Rep. Luke A. Evslin, Chair
       Rep. Micah P.K. Aiu, Vice-Chair

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

COMMENTS IN SUPPORT OF HCR122/HR102 — REQUESTING THE COUNTIES TO AMEND OR ADOPT AN ORDINANCE TO ALLOW RELIGIOUS INSTITUTIONS, EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS, OR MEDICAL INSTITUTIONS TO DEVELOP RESIDENTIAL UNITS ON PARCELS THAT MEET CERTAIN CONDITIONS.

Aloha Chair Evslin, Vice-Chair Aiu and members of the Committees,

The Grassroot Institute of Hawaii would like to offer its support for HCR122 and HR102, which requests that the counties amend or adopt ordinances that would allow religious institutions, medical facilities and schools to build housing on their land, subject to certain conditions.

We commend the Legislature for encouraging the increase of Hawaii’s housing supply through county-level zoning reform. As we discussed in a recent report, “How to facilitate more homebuilding in Hawaii,” zoning reform can play a pivotal role in lowering housing prices and providing certainty to builders.

Because many nonprofits have limited access to financing and little expertise in managing the development process, uncertainty in the approval process can stop charitable housing projects before they begin.[1]

To help solve this problem, HCR122 and HR102 endorse a creative approach pioneered last year by California. The Golden State’s “Yes in God’s backyard” law allows certain religious and educational institutions to build housing on lands they own, subject to some affordability and density restrictions.

The California YIGBY law has already demonstrated that this is a viable way to create new housing. For example, the Episcopal Church’s Los Angeles Diocese is planning to build affordable housing on a quarter of its more than 130 campuses in the region.[2]

In Hawaii, allowing schools, hospitals and religious institutions to create housing on their own properties would help them with their recruitment and retention issues[3] by enabling them to more easily provide affordable rental housing for their employees.

Nonprofit institutions that had been prevented from creating housing for their own staff would be able to offer a convenient on-campus housing benefit, thereby freeing up housing elsewhere throughout the islands for other renters.

Thank you for the opportunity to testify.

Ted Kefalas
Director of Strategic Campaigns
Grassroot Institute of Hawaii
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[1]Hayashi on a mission to help Hawaii churches provide housing,” Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, Nov. 15, 2023.
[2] Lynette Wilson, “Los Angeles diocese set to develop affordable housing on 25% of church-owned land,” Episcopal News Service, Oct. 18, 2023.
[3] Allyson Blair, “On Hawaii Island, a desperate request to house traveling nurses key to patient care,” Hawaii News Now, Feb. 21, 2023.

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