Council defers rental unit bill

LIHUE — When it comes to housing options, Councilman Ross Kagawa wants everyone on the island to have a fair shot.

“How do we take care of our people and how do we provide housing on the island in a fair manner?” he said.

That’s why he, along with members of the Kauai County Council Planning Committee — Committee chair Mason Chock, Gary Hooser, Arryl Kaneshiro and KipuKai Kuali’i — unanimously voted to defer a bill that would allow residents in the Lihue Planning District to apply for permits to build additional rental units on their property.

When Bill No. 2627 was first introduced, it applied only 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 bill was drafted by the Planning Department as a way to meet the expected need for 10,000 new housing units.

But because the purpose of the bill is to create more inventory, the committee is considering opening the measure to all six districts on the island.

Because the administration and the council need time to change the language of the bill and do proper vetting, the Planning Committee deferred it until January.

“It’s a new focus,” said Councilman Arryl Kaneshiro. “I want to see what’s going to come out of the islandwide discussion, and I want to get a comprehensive look at it.”

Kagawa suggested getting rid of the size limit of the ARUs.

“We’re getting the same requests — people who want to build ARUs for their families,” he said. “We should see what floor areas are realistic. We’re not looking for mansions, but there may room to massage it — 600 or 700 square feet may be more realistic.”

The bill was slated to go to council for a final vote Wednesday. Hooser, who co-introduced the measure with Chock, said he was disappointed it didn’t get passed.

“We’re in a housing crisis; people are living in trees and under bridges. Yet we’re saying it’s only another five months,” he said. “We can be fair to the island, but still give people in Lihue the opportunity to build ARUs.”

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