LIHUE — A shortage of rental housing on Kauai will be addressed by a county committee this morning.
The committee will consider adding a new article to the Lihue planning code that will encourage and accommodate the construction of additional rental units in the Lihue Planning District.
Bill 2627 was initially co-introduced in 2016 by former councilman Gary Hooser and current Councilman Mason Chock. It is being introduced again by Chock. It was deferred by the council.
If passed, the ordinance will allow home owners to build a small house in their backyard in order to rent it out, or for family members to live in.
There are protections built into the bill. Each home would have to be a specific size depending on the size of the lot and there will need to be off street parking provided by the homeowners. The homes also have to be connected to a sewer system.
Kauai has long had a rental housing shortage, but it is worsening, and for one resident who was born and raised on the island, the consequences of the shortage have been heartbreaking.
“I was renting a four-bedroom house for myself, my two sons and my elderly mother,” said Cindy Johnson. “We had to move when my landlord sold the house and (we had to) put my mother in a nursing home.”
Since then, Johnson said she’s been homeless, living with her daughter and sleeping on a couch.
“It’s a very unpleasant situation,” Johnson said. “It’s horrible. It makes you start looking at places to live off island.”
Many of her friends, Johnson said, have left Kauai because they couldn’t find an affordable place to live. Johnson said she’s been looking for a house for six months and can pay $1,800 a month for rent, but every time she applies for one there are 15-20 applicants ahead of her.
She said she will most likely have to get a roommate, but Johnson said she would rather just have her mom back.
The housing shortage has also been difficult for those who are new to Kauai.
Yolanda Jaramillo, who lived with her children in a four-bedroom house in Arizona, moved to Kauai in December because she has a daughter who lives here and they wanted the cousins to grow up together.
“We’ve been looking for a house since Dec. 10,” Jaramillo said. “We tried calling ahead of time, but no one will rent to you when you’re not on the island,” she said.
They are now a family of seven people, who are living in her daughter’s small studio apartment. She said she is still thankful though to be living on Kauai and hopeful that they will find a home soon.
Lihue, said Hooser, is the perfect place for a way to offer more affordable rental housing through HB 2627 because it’s not attractive to investors, many local families live here, there’s existing sewer lines and it won’t increase traffic.
Originally introduced in April 2016, it was deferred because it only applied to Puhi, Lihue and Hanamaulu. Under the proposed bill, homeowners in those areas would be allowed to build ARUs of no more than 800 square feet.
The committee wanted to consider opening the measure to all six districts on the island.
The bill was drafted by the Planning Department as a way to meet the expected need for 10,000 new housing units.
Today’s meeting will be at 8:30 a.m. in the Historic County Building.