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HB1630 Letter of Support

February 23, 2024

State Representative Luke Evslin
Hawai‘i State Capitol, Room 332
415 South Beretania St.
Honolulu, HI 96813

State Senator Stanley Chang
Hawai‘i State Capitol, Room 226
415 South Beretania St.
Honolulu, HI 96813

RE: In support of HB1630 and SB3202 regarding “missing middle” housing

Dear Rep. Evslin and Sen. Chang,

As organizations dedicated to promoting a better Hawai‘i, we write to express our collective support for HB1630 and SB3202. These bills would allow individual homeowners in already developed residential areas to build 2-4 smaller homes on their existing lots, keeping local working families in Hawai‘i by reducing their home costs.

Local families simply cannot find homes they can afford. Hawai‘i needs more starter homes, not “monster homes,” and this bill is a practical, forward-thinking measure to help address our state’s severe housing shortage by promoting more “missing middle” housing, which would be affordable to middle class local residents.

Hawai‘i has the least affordable housing market in the nation. The median home price hovers above $1 million, putting homeownership out of reach for many local families. High prices combined with tight inventory leave few choices for first-time homebuyers.

As a result, our state has faced a declining population for the past eight years. There are now more Native Hawaiians living on the continent than in Hawai‘i, according to the latest U.S. Census Bureau figures.

A major contributor to high housing costs are the regulations mandating large lot sizes in residential areas. Current county zoning rules require most new single-family homes to be built on lots of at least 5,000 square feet or more. However, since land values in Hawai‘i are so high, mandating large front and back yards guarantees higher housing prices that local working families cannot reasonably afford.

Reforming certain regulations to allow smaller, more affordable starter homes would give these families viable options to enter the ownership market and stay in Hawai‘i. These changes would spur construction of more varied housing types at attainable prices, and give individual homeowners more flexibility to convert their single-family house into multiple homes. These bills provide viable ownership options and more rental housing for Hawaii’s essential workers while also ensuring that multigenerational households can remain together.

Thoughtfully designed starter homes on small lots would provide working families a foothold in homeownership while maintaining neighborhood character. Current minimum lot sizes of 5,000+ square feet both exclude many local working families and lead to urban sprawl that will eat into our agricultural land.

Allowing modest lot sizes would promote good land stewardship while easing our housing shortage, and support our state’s sustainability goals. Specifically, it would help protect our open and agricultural spaces by focusing building in already developed areas.

Smaller lot sizes would allow more efficient use of limited urban land, and are common in other high-cost areas. California and Oregon have passed similar reforms, and we are glad to see this bill introduced in Hawai‘i — and urge its passage.

Hawaii’s working families can no longer wait for action. We are missing so much “missing middle” workforce housing. This type of housing forms the backbone of many longtime local communities but, ironically, would be illegal to build under today’s zoning requirements.

The need for diverse housing choices including starter homes has never been clearer. This proposed legislation, as represented by HB1630 and SB3202, would balance Hawai‘i’s housing affordability as well as preserve our rural land — and it has the strong endorsement of our organizations.