Council not sold on rental unit bill

LIHUE — The Kauai County Council referred a bill to committee Wednesday that would allow additional rental units in the Lihue Planning District, citing a need for fairness for other parts of the island.

“I cannot support this at the time,” said County Council Vice-Chair Ross Kagawa. “You have covenants that work for some and not others that were adopted way before. How fair is that?”

Bill 2627, which would allow homeowners in Puhi, Lihue and Hanamaulu to apply for a permit to add rental units to their property, was referred to the planning committee next Wednesday.

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.

“My no vote will be a vote to send (the bill) to planning back to vett what they didn’t vett,” said Councilman KipuKai Kuali‘i. “To vett islandwide as one option, but also to vett the three main neighborhood cities on this island — Lihue, Kapaa and Waimea — so that could be another option.”

Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura, however, said Kauai needs housing urgently.

“There’s no reason to hold back Lihue, while we vett other areas,” she said.

The Lihue district would act as a pilot program for the rest of the island if the bill is passed, Yukimura noted.

“The information that we’ll learn from this process will be valuable in how we develop it elsewhere if that is what you choose to do,” she said.

The bill states: “The Lihue District is expected to absorb nearly half of this increase, which would mean adding approximately 4,600 units to its current housing stock.”

Councilman Gary Hooser, who supports the measure, said the bill has gone through months of vetting and public testimony.

“This is an opportunity that we can give people of this district, the people of the island,” Hooser said. “Even if only 10 units came out of this, the housing department will tell you that’s going to be $3 million, $4 million worth of value. This is the way: the most efficient, the most affordable.”

Councilman Arryl Kaneshiro said he’s in a state of limbo toward the bill.

“Do we do it and see just like a test or does planning go back and say, ‘We’ve heard a lot from the community as far as an islandwide policy.’ What is our direction, I guess?” he said.

Councilman Mason Chock, who co-sponsored the bill with Hooser, said the bill is only scratching the surface for the island’s housing needs.

“I would like to see this (apply) to every single family on this island,” he said. “This is an opportunity for a small win to see how this can work.”


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