Hawaii State Bills Could Limit or Expand Affordable Housing Law

Some legislators see a law that provides a zoning exemption to affordable housing builders as a necessary way to alleviate the housing crisis, while others worry about the impact of fast-tracked development on land zoned for conservation.

1 minute read

February 8, 2023, 8:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Housing advocates are keeping a close eye on a battle brewing in the Hawaiian state legislature, where competing bills seek to both expand and limit the powers of a 2006 law that allows developers of affordable housing to largely bypass zoning and land use regulations. “Known as Section 201H-38 of the Hawaii Revised Statutes, the law allows developers of affordable housing to sidestep most state and local laws that control things like the size and type of project that can be built in a certain place.” Stewart Yerton describes the controversy in Honolulu Civil Beat.

Lawmakers who want to limit the law say it allows developers to build on undeveloped parcels that were previously zoned for conservation or displace existing residents without community input, threatening Hawaii’s undeveloped natural areas. Others say the law provides multiple opportunities for public input and can help mitigate the housing affordability crisis in a state where median home prices are over $1 million and renters spend over 40 percent of their income on housing.

One proposed law would require an environmental review for any new projects proposed on land zoned for preservation. Another would expand the power of Section 201H-38 by removing the requirement for approval from a county council. 

Monday, February 6, 2023 in Honolulu Civil Beat

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