LIHUE — Homeowners and landlords are one step closer to being allowed to contain kitchens in their guest houses.
On Wednesday, the County Council Planning Committee approved a draft bill that updates the definition of a guest house. Currently, a guest house, which is a separate unit away from the primary dwelling that is no more than 500 square feet and may not be used as a transient vacation rental or homestay operation, can’t contain kitchen amenities, such as stoves, refrigerators or sinks.
In essence, a guest house serves as an “exterior bedroom.”
The purpose of Bill No. 2754, introduced by councilmembers Mason K. Chock and Arthur Brun earlier this year, is to help increase the number of available housing units on the island.
By allowing homeowners and landlords to have kitchens in their guest houses, some of the island’s long-term housing solutions can potentially be met, especially for kupuna or young adults, who still live on their family’s properties.
With this bill, ohana, or a lessee living under agreed-upon terms, can be legally privy to more privacy and no longer have to share kitchen facilities at the primary dwelling.
“The County of Kauai is in the midst of a housing crisis,” said Kauai County Planning Department Director Ka‘aina Hull, who is in favor of the draft bill, at Wednesday’s meeting.
It is predicted that the population on Kauai will continue to increase and a report by Hawaii’s Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism states that it will grow by almost 20 percent between 2015 and 2025.
The same report, “Measuring Housing Demand in Hawaii, 2015-2025,” said that the demand for housing on the island is expected to increase by more than 5,000 units during the same period of time.
In order to decrease housing needs even more so, additional amendments to the definition of guest house were proposed during Wednesday’s meeting that would require further review by the Kauai County Attorney and Planning Commission.
Councilmember Luke Evslin proposed that guest houses not only be defined as separate units but also as attachments to the main residence, such as a “lockout” to the primary dwelling. Moreover, he suggested that the total square footage of a guest house not include areas like a screened-in lanai or garage.
Another discussion brought up by councilmember KipuKai Kuali‘i, which would also require review by the Kauai County Attorney and Planning Commission prior to the possible introduction of a new draft bill, pertained to increasing guest house size limit from 500 to 800 square feet.
A concern that resident Bruce Hart expressed was that more amendments could create a “broad brush” of residential density on agricultural land. He pointed out during public testimony that if the definition of guest house continues to expand, it could become more akin to an “additional dwelling unit,” or ADU.
“I’d much rather see a specific strategy to up-zoning to residential instead,” he said.
There was also discussion about eliminating the term “guest house” altogether but the Planning Department has no intention of converting guest houses into ADUs or additional rental units.
“Having more residential density in agricultural districts leads to suburban sprawl and decreases the rural character of Kauai,” Hull said, adding that while the Planning Department is a proponent of adding more inventory to existing housing, it does not condone constructing new dwellings on agricultural land.
Bill No. 2754, amending the definition of guest house to include kitchens, will now move to full council review.