Housing need ‘critical’

LIHUE — For Councilman Arryl Kaneshiro, allowing Kauai residents to build multiple family dwellings on their property is a step in the right direction toward addressing the island’s affordable housing problem.

“You hear all the time when you’re out in the public that housing is a critical need,” he said.

On Wednesday, the Kauai County Council discussed a bill that would alleviate some of the stress surrounding affordable housing.

The council unanimously voted to refer the bill to the Planning Commission to get their opinion and for further vetting.

Under the Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance, it is prohibited to build multiple family dwelling units in certain residential districts — R-1 through R-6 — without a use permit. The law also says that houses built after 1980 and are zoned between R-1 and R-6 districts cannot be renovated into two separate houses. Instead, owners have to build a separate structure on their property, Kaneshiro said.

Bill No. 2634 seeks to change that rule.

As proposed, the bill would make it legal to build multiple family dwelling units in all residential zones.

According to the bill, multiple family dwellings units allow for reduced construction cost to density ratios. They also provide for a more efficient use of county and state infrastructure.

“This isn’t a solution to all our housing problems or to affordable housing,” Kaneshiro said. “This basically provides the opportunity for families to build a multiple family dwelling unit if they want to.”

Councilman Gary Hooser voiced concerns about people trying to develop multiple family dwelling units in places where affordable housing isn’t needed, like Princeville or Koloa.

“Affordable housing for local residents is located in certain areas,” he said. “This bill might not necessarily generate more affordable housing for local people, but it might facilitate the development of more high-end rentals.”

To circumvent that issue, Hooser suggested limiting the bill to apply only to certain geographical areas.

Councilman Mason Chock agreed.

“We should maybe limit big mansions to permits or limiting the square feet (of the houses),” he said. “These are things we should think about in terms of what we can do to ensure getting local residents in homes.”

There’s only so much the council can do for housing, Kaneshiro said.

“If we wanted to, we can take money from the general fund and dump money into housing, but I don’t think that’s a good use of taxpayers’ dollars,” he said. “The best we can do as a council is to try to adjust our policies and provide opportunity.”

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