LIHUE — A bill aimed at allowing homeowners to build small rental units on their land in order to help meet an affordable housing shortage was deferred to the end of February during a Kauai County committee meeting Wednesday.
Councilman Ross Kagawa said he would oppose Bill 2627 if there were not better provisions added into it regarding parking.
“I think going forward, that is one issue I hope planning will report to the planning commission is, what is going to be our policy on adding units and addressing parking,” Kagawa said.
He said there are already significant problems with parking in residential areas, because there are numerous families living under one roof, but they only have two parking stalls. Building additional rental units, he said, opens the door for more parking issues.
“Let me be clear that I will oppose any plan moving forward that does not address parking, because it is going to snowball on us,” Kagawa said.
Councilman Derek Kawakami agreed with Kagawa on the parking issue. He said parking issues have already created a public safety issue in a lot of neighborhoods because it causes problems for emergency personnel trying to respond to calls.
Kawakami also said there are many pieces to Kauai’s affordable housing puzzle that have to come together, but if properly put through, the ARU bill could be part of the solution.
“Thank you for the work,” he said. “I know this has been a long process, but it requires a long process because this thing has tremendous impacts on both sides.”
Some say the lack of affordable housing on Kauai is reaching a crisis situation. Many report struggling to find a place to live and having to seek shelter in cars and homes of relatives and friends.
During a public comment session Anne Punohu addressed concerns with some of the bill’s wording, including development within a 10-minute walking radius of Lihue, Puhi and Hanamaulu.
“It takes me a lot longer than 10 minutes to walk anywhere, so I’m a little concerned with the time limit clock put on where we put the housing,” Punohu said.
An even bigger concern, Punohu said, is assurance that the units will actually be affordable and representative of someone’s actual income, because Lihue and Puhi are right in the center of where the average workers on Kauai live. She said the state income doesn’t necessarily match that of the average worker because there are so many wealthy who live in Hawaii.
“We need to make sure that people have lovely apartments to live in that are for workers, not for rich people coming from the mainland or people to make money on,” Punoho said. “We want to make these rental units affordable for someone who’s earning an average wage on Hawaii, which is not that high.”
Another issue, she said, is to make sure that those who are renting out units illegally have the ability make them legal.
“That it’s not so much red tape that they give up and just continue to be illegal,” she said.
The bill was initially co-introduced to the council by former councilman Gary Hooser and current Councilman Mason Chock in 2016, but was deferred because it only applied to Puhi, Lihue and Hanamaulu, and the council wanted to consider opening the measure to all six districts on Kauai.
The bill was drafted by the Planning Department as a way to meet the expected need for 10,000 new housing units.
The bill was deferred to Feb. 28.