Jack Tyrrell specializes in Kakaako, Honolulu, Hawaii luxury condo projects.

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Council approves Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s bill for accessory dwelling units

Last week, the Honolulu City Council approved Mayor Kirk Caldwell's bill that is expected to help ease the affordable housing crunch on Oahu. For homeowners, the changes to current zoning present an opportunity to increase your income on your property through rentals. Read more about it from KITV 4 below:

HONOLULU —Hawaii’s housing crunch is legendary, and according to a recent state report, Oahu alone needs an additional 26,000 to 30,000 units over the next decade.

Click here to watch Andrew Pereira's report.

A bill passed unanimously Wednesday by the City Council is expected to help. Under Bill 20, homeowners with lots of 3,500 square feet or more would be allowed to build an accessory dwelling unit on their property. So-called ADU’s could only be built in areas where sewer connections, water supply and transportation facilities are adequate.

"We think it provides a tremendous potential source of reasonably affordable rental housing," said Harrison Rue, the city’s Transit Oriented Development Administrator, who was hired by the mayor, in part, to help craft the legislation.

The city estimates as many as 105,000 additional rental units could be created under the bill, however ADU’s are not permitted in neighborhoods controlled by homeowners associations, for example, Mililani. Also, if your home is outside of a TOD zone, you must provide at least one parking spot on your property.

Under the bill, lots between 3,500 square feet to just under 5,000 square feet can build an ADU of 400 square feet in size. Lots larger than 5,000 square feet can build an ADU as large as 800 square feet. The measure could be a benefit not only to those looking for housing, but also homeowners looking for some extra income.

"I think there's ample room with most of the communities to expand,” said Council Chairman Ernie Martin. “I can see that once the bill is adopted and enacted into law, there will be a few neighborhoods that will take advantage of this."

Although only a small number of people expressed opposition to the bill, those who did are concerned ADU’s will strain infrastructure and lead to an increase in short-term vacation rentals. Jeanne Ohta, president of the Aina Haina Community Association, expressed pessimism regarding the Department of Planning and Permitting’s ability to enforce the bill.

“We are not confident that DPP will be able to enforce zoning codes and regulations on the new ADU's,” said Ohta written testimony to the City Council. “What is going to change in the way they enforce the rules?”

DPP Director George Atta said the greatest change under the ADU bill is that his inspectors are allowed to use advertising on the Internet or elsewhere to determine if an accessory dwelling unit is being used as a vacation rental.

"In the past we had to prove that they were being used that way,” said Atta. “This gives us a stronger enforcement tool and the burden of proof is on the homeowner, not on us."

An additional safeguard against ADU’s becoming vacation rentals is a provision in the bill that units must be rented for at least six months. Once the initial six month period is over, landlords can switch to a month-to-month lease as long as the same occupant is in the unit.

For more information on ADUs, check out the Hawaii Appleseed Center's fact sheet here.