Committee OKs rental unit bill

LIHUE — A Kauai County Council committee voted in favor of a bill Wednesday that would allow additional rental units in the Lihue Planning district, passing on the bill to full council on Aug. 3.

The Kauai Council Planning Committee voted 3-1 to amend Bill 2627, which would allow homeowners in Puhi, Lihue and Hanamaulu to apply for a permit to add rental units to their property.

Committee chair Mason Chock, Gary Hooser and Arryl Kaneshiro voted to amend the bill, while Councilmember Ross Kagawa voted against it. Committee member KipuKai Kuali‘i was absent and excused from the vote.

Among the items amended included increasing the lot area of an ARU and omitting the word “affordable” in renting units, as the purpose of the bill is to “include additional housing inventory.”

According to the measure, “the County is anticipated to need an additional 10,000 new housing units to accommodate its resident population between 2010 and 2035.”

“This, for me, is about helping our kupuna and helping our kids who are trying save so they can have a future on this island as well,” Chock said.

Kaneshiro also supports the measure.

“I think the ultimate goal is to stimulate housing,” he said. “All we can do is loosen the restriction and provide the opportunity. It’s not a golden egg, but it’s an opportunity.”

While he supports additional room for rental units, Council Chair Mel Rapozo said limiting the additional units to Lihue, Puhi and Hanamaulu isn’t fair.

“I do not support the restriction of any area outside of Lihue, Puhi and Hanamaulu,” Rapozo said. “If you go to Hanapepe, Eleele, Kapaa, Kapahi, there’s a lot of opportunities for families. I think we do have an inventory problem. I do think we a housing shortage. To limit this to Lihue, Puhi, and Hanamaulu, to me, just doesn’t make sense.”

Kagawa is against the measure, citing the need to conserve the rural identity of the areas.

“The City and County of Honolulu has 1.4 million people. They have skyscrapers in Honolulu, they have duplexes are over the place,” he said. “They’re urban and we’re very rural. I wanted to make sure our country, rural characteristic was kept in place.”

Nancy Kanna of the Kauai Board of Realtors hopes the bill will move forward.

“(We need this) to stimulate the development of more housing,” Kanna said, “Kauai has hit a record low in several years. We need to reduce the barriers and create incentives of all housing types.”

Councilman Gary Hooser, who co-introduced the bill with Chock, said the measure is about increasing opportunity.

“It’s specifically in one area. It’s near job centers. There’s many good reasons why it should be here,” Hooser said. “This is a huge great first step. It will increase inventory in an area where it is suitable for them.”

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Alden Alayvilla, reporter, can be reached at 245-0435 or aalayvilla@thegardenisland.com.

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