Upzoning Bill Permits More Density in Honolulu

A bill that allows higher density in certain Honolulu neighborhoods could reduce the cost of development and create more affordable housing units.

2 minute read

February 9, 2022, 12:00 PM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Downtown Honolulu as seen from the top of Diamond Head

John Fowler / flickr

A recently passed density bill could yield hundreds of new affordable housing units in Honolulu, reports Noelle Fujii-Oride in Hawaii Business Magazine. "As of Jan. 10, 2022, 17 applications for building permits and fee waivers under Bill 7 had been submitted, for a total of 467 affordable rental units, according to Honolulu’s Department of Planning and Permitting. Three projects have been fully approved."

The bill, Fujii-Oride writes, "makes the construction of affordable rentals cheaper by allowing developers and landowners to build taller, wider and denser than normally allowed in areas that have apartment, apartment mixed-use and business mixed-use zoning." The bill, which applies to lots of 20,000 square feet or less, does not require off-street parking or loading zones, reducing building costs for developers. "At least 80% of the units in these buildings must be rented to households earning up to 100% of the area median income – about $120,800 for a family of four." Projects that qualify for Bill 7 exemptions also receive waivers on some permitting, property taxes, and wastewater facility fees.

Last year, Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi also signed a law creating a $10-million grant program for affordable housing developers. The first project to get underway under Bill 7, 311 Puuhue Place, will include 25 affordable units on the site of an abandoned single-family home. The developers hope the design can serve as a model for future projects and indicate ways to achieve economies of scale in affordable housing development in the city.

Friday, February 4, 2022 in Hawaii Business Magazine

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