Momentum builds for housing proposal

LIHUE — The Kauai County Council unanimously passed a bill on first reading Wednesday that allows multiple family dwelling units in all residential zoning districts.

“I support the intention of this bill,” said Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura. “Hopefully, this will be a way to make housing opportunities more available.”

Under the new bill, No. 2634, Kauai residents are allowed to construct a multiple family dwelling unit on their property, no matter their zoning district.

Specifically, the bill gives homeowners in the R-1 (one unit per acre) through R-6 (six units per acre) zoning designations the ability to construct the units on their property. Originally, those homeowners would have to apply for a use permit to build on their property.

The bill was introduced by Councilman Arryl Kaneshiro as a way to address Kauai’s housing shortage.

“This gives a homeowner or a developer the opportunity to save costs by having one roof with shared walls, rather than having two separate houses,” Kaneshiro said.

The bill is simply providing options, he added.

During public testimony, Norma Doctor Sparks and Alice Parker spoke in favor of the bill.

“My husband and I have six rental units, and every time one goes vacant, we have over 30 people coming to see it. And we have really worked on keeping our rent as affordable as possible,” Doctor Sparks said.

The bill is “very responsive to the needs of Kauai citizens,” she added.

Parker agreed.

“This is terrific and is exactly what the people want,” she said. “We need infrastructure desperately.”

Doctor Sparks said the county needs to work to make sure multiple family dwelling units stay affordable.

But Anne Punohu said that unless the county starts pushing for rent control, the bill won’t alleviate the housing crisis.

“On Craigslist, people are charging $500 to $700 — that’s what the market wants,” she said. “Without rent control, the bill won’t work for the people.”

Punohu suggested offering incentives for people to rent their homes at affordable rates and capping affordable rent at 60 percent of Kauai’s median household income.

A public hearing for Bill No. 2634 has been set for Oct. 5.

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