Hawaii Governor Wipes Away Regulatory Barriers to Housing With the Stroke of a Pen

The governor of Hawaii is using emergency powers to remove barriers to housing construction.

2 minute read

July 23, 2023, 11:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


The exterior of the Hawaii state capitol building.

The Hawaii State Capitol Building. | W.Scott McGill / Adobe Stock

Hawaii Governor Josh Green earlier this month issued an executive order intended to spur housing construction in the state. The “Emergency Proclamation Relating to Housing,” as the order was titled, suspends state and county laws focusing on land use, historic preservation, and environmental review.

According to an article by Stewart Yerton for Honolulu Civil Beat, the governor cited a state law “giving the governor broad power to suspend laws that impede a response to emergencies such as natural disasters or the coronavirus pandemic” to issue the executive order. “In this case, the emergency is a shortage of housing and the response is to lower regulatory barriers to building homes,” reports Yerton.

Yerton adds that Gov. Green has framed housing prices in the state as an existential threat, “which has seen an outmigration that averaged 20 people per day last year as residents unable to afford the high cost of living fled to the mainland.”

The executive order provoked opposition, however, over concern about “potential exploitation of land and environmental harms with the suspension of many regulations aimed at balancing the need for development with protecting natural and cultural resources,” reports Yerton.

While multiple states have taken steps to preempt local control of land use powers in the name of housing affordability in recent years—namely Oregon, California, Montana, and Vermont—this is the first time such a sweeping act of state preemption has been achieved without approval from the state legislature.

Monday, July 17, 2023 in Honolulu Advertiser

Three colorful, large beachfront homes, one khaki, one blue, and one yellow, with a small dune in front and flat sand in foreground.

Florida Homeowners 'Nope Out' of Beach Restoration Over Public Access

The U.S. Corps of Engineers and Redington Shores, Florida are at a standstill: The Corps won’t spend public money to restore private beaches, and homeowners are refusing to grant public access to the beaches behind their home in return for federal assistance.

June 7, 2024 - Grist

Multistory apartment building under construction.

New Tennessee Law Allows No-Cost Incentives for Affordable Housing

Local governments in the Volunteer State can now offer developers incentives like increased density, lower parking requirements, and priority permitting for affordable housing projects.

June 10, 2024 - Nooga Today

Pumping Gas

10 States Where the Gas Tax Is Highest

As the gap between gas tax revenue and transportation funding needs widen across the country, the funding mechanism is drawing increased scrutiny from both public officials and consumers.

June 9, 2024 - The Ascent

Concrete walkway with landscaping, decorative tiles, and picnic tables in a Los Angeles County park.

Wish Granted: Former Brownfield Transformed to New Park

Wishing Tree Park in West Carson, California officially opened last month, replacing a brownfield site with a much-needed green space for recreation and respite.

June 14 - Urbanize LA

"No right turn on red" and "Turning vehicles yield to pedestrians" sign.

The Tide is Turning on Right Turns on Red

The policy, which stems from the gas embargo of the 1970s, makes intersections more dangerous for pedestrians.

June 14 - NPR

Thick green forest on edge of lake in Louisville, Kentucky.

Louisville Begins Process to Clean Superfund Site

A public forest is home to dozens of barrels that have been leaking toxic materials for decades.

June 14 - Inside Climate News

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.