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Ease rules on ag land homes to ease Maui housing crisis

The following testimony was submitted by the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii for consideration by the Maui County Council Housing and Land Use Committee on May 15, 2024.
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May 15, 2024, 9 a.m.
Council Chamber, Kalana O Maui Building

To: Maui County Council, Housing and Land Use Committee
      Tasha Kama, Chair
      Tom Cook, Vice-Chair

From: Joe Kent, Executive Vice President
           Grassroot Institute of Hawaii

RE: COMMENTS ON BILL 71 — A BILL FOR AN ORDINANCE AMENDING SECTION 19.30A.050, MAUI COUNTY CODE, RELATING TO THE SIZE OF FARM DWELLINGS IN THE AGRICULTURAL DISTRICT

Aloha Chair Kama, Vice-Chair Cook and other members of the Committee,

The Grassroot Institute of Hawaii would like to offer its support for Bill 71 (2024), which would increase the allowable square footage of a second farm dwelling in the Agricultural District from 1,000 to 1,500 square feet. This would apply only to the islands of Maui and Lanai.

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 is not larger than 10% of the lot’s total area.

Grassroot 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 Maui wildfires.

Because the proposed bill would not change the 10% total area limit, the Committee could simply 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 downloaded for free on our website.

Thank you for the opportunity to testify.

Joe Kent
Executive Vice President
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 May 10, 2024.

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