A little known bill is currently making its way through our County Council: A bill that will exempt developers from the need to build affordable housing for an entire decade: Bill 2774. As we prepare for the upcoming County Council elections, this affordable housing 10 year exemption is being proposed by Council Chair, Arryl Kaneshiro and KipuKai Kuali‘i.
The part of the bill that creates the exemption follows. Basically, every location on the island where a developer builds 10 residential units or more per acre none will need to be sold at affordable rates. Kauai’s current housing code has no such exemption. Rather, when multifamily developments are built, developers are currently required to build approximately 30 percent for sale at affordable rates. Such homes are referred to as workforce housing, a term that now includes affordable, low-income etc. So, where will affordable housing/workforce housing requirements come from if the following is passed?
SECTION 13. Chapter 7A, Kaua’i County Code 1987, as amended, is hereby amended by adding a new Section 7A-1.4.2, Exemptions, as follows:
“Sec. 7A-1.4.2 Exemptions.
The workforce housing requirements of this Chapter, shall not apply to the following:
(a) Projects within the following special planning areas and design districts, developed at or above the maximum density allowed:
(1) Lihue Town Core Urban Design District as defined in Title IV, Chapter 10, Article 5A.
(2) Koloa Town Walkable Mixed Use District as defined in Title IV, Chapter 10, Article 6.
(3) Kalaheo Town Walkable Mixed Use District as defined in Title IV, Chapter 10, Article 6.
(b) Projects outside of Visitor Destination Areas and Special Management Areas in residential or mixed use zoning districts with a density of R-10 or greater, consisting of multiple or single family attached dwellings, developed at or above the maximum density allowed.
(c) Any affordable or workforce housing development developed by or for the County, either by itself or in partnership with another housing development organization, is exempt from the requirements of this Chapter.
(d) The exemptions in subsection (a) for special planning areas and design districts and in subsection (b) relating to zoning density shall expire ten (10) years from the date of their adoption.”
Should we abandon the workforce housing requirements for the next 10 years? Why would we do that? Some public officials offer that this new 10 year exemption will incentivize builders to develop concentrated housing. The houses to be built, 10 units or more per acre, outside the visitor destination area, like that approved for the Lihue Town Core (2880 unit capacity per legislation signed by the Mayor, earlier this year), with similar approved build-outs planned for Koloa and Kalaheo are all exempt from the need to be affordable. Those employed in service industries and professions will be forced out as prices rise in the hip, new town cores. Low/medium income households will live in areas where they need to drive to work, which dramatically increases their cost of living and creates additional traffic impacts. The proposed exemption guts the development to housing that our workers can afford.
In a recent conversation with the housing director, Adam Roversi, he confirmed that there are similar Town Core build outs being planned for Waimea, Hanapepe, Port Allen/Ele`ele Heights and Kilauea which will fall within the proposed exemption.
Who stands to benefit from this new 10 year exemption? Not the people of Kauai and our workforce who definitely need affordable housing.
Of interest, our Council Chair, also project manager for Grove Farm, is offering the bill at the same time Grove Farm’s Mahaulepu Farms is planning to build an 1100 residential unit mixed use village on the corner of Poipu and Ala Kinoiki Roads (Eastern Koloa bypass). This is outside and mauka of the VDA (visitor destination area), formerly agriculture land but the General Plan now designates it a “large town”. See page 243 of the 2018 General Plan Update. If Grove Farm obtains approval to build the 1100 unit mixed use village within the 10 year exemption, none need be sold as workforce housing/affordable.
This bill will be before the Council July 8, 2020. Public comments may be emailed to the Council at: email@example.com. Are we really ready for a 10 year moratorium on workforce/affordable housing on Kauai?
Bridget Hammerquist is a resident of Koloa