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State officials hope new laws will ease Hawaii’s housing affordability crisis

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(The Center Square) – Gov. Josh Green said he hopes six new housing laws will make housing more affordable in the state.

One of the more controversial bills passed by the legislature and signed by Green is Senate Bill 3202. It requires counties to allow at least two accessory dwelling units on all residentially zoned lots. Counties must adopt or amend ordinances by Dec. 31, 2026 to adjust for this, according to the bill.

In a letter of support for SB 3202, the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii called it one of the most critical housing bills of the 2024 session.

“The aim of this bill is to boost the construction of smaller, more affordable “starter homes” across the state, thereby incentivizing homebuilders to build smaller houses and bring down the cost of housing statewide,” Ted Kefalas, Director of Strategic Campaigns for Grassroot Institute of Hawaii said. “Every element of this bill reflects the growing consensus among housing experts that zoning reform is essential to increasing housing supply.”

House Bill 2090, approved unanimously by the Legislature, is meant to help increase housing inventory by repurposing underutilized commercial spaces and office buildings, according to the governor’s office.

The Grassroot Institute of Hawaii also endorsed the bill, saying it could expedite development projects and provide major pro-housing zoning reform.

House Bill 1760 addresses affordable housing. It gives the Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corporation and counties authorization to do a bond volume cap recycling program and use prior years’ tax-exempt private activity bond volume, the governor’s office said.

House Bill 1925 establishes and funds the Hawaii State Planning Act Phase II Task Force to continue oversight of long-range development and housing issues.

“The State (and rest of world) are facing numerous complex, interlocking challenges that are increasing in speed and scale,” wrote President and Executive Director of Holomua Collaborative Josh Wisch in a letter supporting the measure. “These challenges require solutions and approaches that are cross-sector and collaborative. This proposal aims to use the opportunity to update and modernize the State Planning Act (HRS 226) to address these complex challenges.”

Green also signed Senate Bill 2066, which gives housing projects an alternative path for seeking exemptions for specific state laws and expedites the regulatory process, according to Green’s office.

Senate Bill 2133 authorizes the Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corporation to issue bonds for housing project infrastructure, according to Green’s office.

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, praised the new laws.

“We are finally doing something meaningful to make it easier for families, workers, and local people to live in Hawai‘i and afford a place to call their own,” Schatz said. “Hawaii’s housing shortage took decades to build up because regulation is a one-way ratchet, so it’s not something that can be fixed in an instant. But for the first time in a while, I’m hopeful not just because of these bills, but because there is now a generation of lawmakers and other leaders that see this problem clearly and have the guts to do something about it.”

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