Council defers affordable housing bill

LIHUE — The Kauai County Council unanimously voted Wednesday to defer a bill that would allow residents in the Lihue Planning District to construct rental units as part of their homes.

Councilman Ross Kagawa said he had logistical questions for the Planning Department, like how water hookups will work in a home with more than one unit.

“We’re talking about a new person that now qualifies for an Additional Rental Unit who will have to pay the water hookup fee,” he said. “But what happens to the illegal structures in Hanamaulu that are supposed to be for one family, but has two families and put in an additional kitchen after inspection was finished. You have two families, but you’re hooked up to only one meter?”

Kagawa questioned if the Planning Department would require those illegal ARUs to pay an additional water hookup fee because it recognizes two units in one structure.

He also questioned if the measure would be grandfathering some illegal operations.

“This bill would cover possibly up to 400 to 500 homes in the Hanamaulu area that have basically been adding to the structures, like kitchens, illegally, and have circumvented the permitting and inspection process,” he said.

Kagawa said he wants to make sure the bill is fair to everyone.

Councilman Gary Hooser, who introduced the bill with Councilman Mason Chock, said creating affordable housing options was the sole purpose of the bill, not grandfathering existing illegal ARUs.

Hooser said he wants to avoid a major clamp down on illegal ARUs, which is what he believed happened with the recent enforcement of illegal Transient Vacation Rentals.

“I do not support a crackdown by the Planning Department or by the administration on people who have made a living off of renting part of their house,” he said.

There needs to be gradual compliance, Hooser added.

Bill No. 2627 would allow qualifying properties in the Lihue Planning District to construct an additional rental unit, or ARU, of no more than 800 square feet.

To qualify, the property must provide additional off street parking, must have sufficient sewer and water availability and the total lot coverage cannot exceed present standards.

The proposed bill will also consider incentives, like offering tax benefits, for people who rent ARUs on their property.

The Lihue Planning District, which was approved in June 2015, plans to create an additional 10,000 housing units to accommodate an expected rise in population. Since Lihue is expected to absorb half of that population, around 4,600 units need to be built in the town.

“This bill has the potential to create more affordable housing units,” said Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura.

Councilman KipuKai Kuali’i, who supported deferring the bill, agreed.

“There are multiple families living in homes that are overcrowded,” he said. “There’s a lot of potential in this bill, and we need to make sure we maximize our success and what what we’re trying to achieve.”

Chock said he doesn’t want the council to miss out on an opportunity to provide affordable housing.

“We’re just scratching the surface of housing needs in the county,” he said. “This is a good first step.”

Bill No. 2627 will go back to the council for discussion on July 6 after being vetted by the Planning Department.

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