Hawaii Council follows through on homeowner tax-cut proposal

The Grassroot Institute of Hawaii supported the reduction, but also had urged that the tax cuts be deeper and extended to business properties as well

It was good news last week when the Hawaii County Council approved a resolution cutting property taxes for homeowners and affordable rental properties, but the cut wasn’t as large as it could have been, nor was it broadened to include commercial and industrial properties.

The Council unanimously voted to reduce the rate by 20 cents from $6.15 to $5.95 per $1,000 in assessed value, but voted 5-4 against a more expansive proposal that would have lowered the rate by 40 cents, from $6.15 to $5.75.

The Grassroot Institute had testified in favor of the deeper cut, but also supported the lesser cut, which is expected to save county taxpayers $2.74 million in the upcoming year.

Not addressed by the Council was Grassroot’s suggestion to cut rates on commercial and industrial properties from $10.70 to $10.05. This amendment would have returned millions of dollars to county entrepreneurs and business owners and helped counteract the higher assessments that those classes have experienced in the past several years.

Despite the bill’s timidity, passage of the bill was still a welcome move.

Also on Hawaii Island, the Council on Tuesday considered a measure, Bill 152, that would allow the Hawaii County Department of Public Works to issue preapproved model plans for multifamily housing — as it already does for single-family dwellings.

Grassroot policy researcher Jonathan Helton testified that allowing for preapproved model plans for multifamily dwellings would reduce the need for plan reviews of projects that use these pre-vetted designs, which could significantly cut down on permitting delays and costs for homebuilders, speeding up the delivery of much-needed housing for future owners and renters.

He said the “preapproved plans would be especially helpful to nonprofit and small-scale homebuilders, who often have limited capital to finance projects while waiting on plan approvals.”

In other county matters …
Kauai County

The Grassroot Institute of Hawaii submitted testimony in support of Bill 2919, which if enacted would be yet another way Garden Island officials could facilitate more housing.

The bill would allow one “guest house” per dwelling unit in most of the county’s residential districts and commercial, agriculture, open and university districts; and allow guest houses to be built on lots that already have an “additional dwelling unit.”

Grassroot policy researcher Jonathan Helton said the bill aligns with the 2018 update to Kauai’s General Plan, which recommended that the County facilitate the development of small-footprint homes or “tiny homes” on small lots in existing urban areas as a way to alleviate Kauai’s housing crisis.

Maui County

Grassroot submitted testimony in support of Bill 87, which would allow temporary structures constructed in the Lahaina burn zone to be permitted for up to five years, instead of the current 180-day time limit for temporary structures permits.

Grassroot policy researcher Jonathan Helton said “one concern is that the bill would not apply to temporary structures built outside the burn zone that are vital for housing and providing relief resources to those displaced by the fires.” On behalf of Grassroot, he urged the Committee on Water and Infrastructure to add language that would apply the proposed five-year permit to those structures as well.

Other Grassroot testimonies submitted this week on Maui included:

>> Bill 96: “Exempt shipping containers from need to get permits”

>> Bill 71: “Allow more square footage for second farm dwellings”

>> Bill 98: “Modify Maui code to promote manufactured, modular homes”

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