May 29, 2010

Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU's) as a way to Achieve Affordable Housing in Honolulu

Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU’s) provide a rare opportunity to create (affordable) legal dwelling units in Honolulu from the existing inventory of homes. It will cost the taxpayers very little – if anything – and it would not alter the character of our cherished residential neighborhoods.

This can be accomplished by amending the Zoning and Building Codes to legalize the already common practice of illegally renting a Rec Room (accessory to a single family dwelling) as a separate studio.

Historically, Ohana Units were intended to address the issue of home affordability and accommodate extended family living. However, creating an Ohana Unit comes with high permit fees and numerous restrictions (ie. occupancy strictly limited to family related by blood marriage or adoption) that have discouraged the widespread creation of Ohana Units

ADU’s are a potential compromise: while Ohana Units bear the highest permit fees and restrictions, illegally rented Rec Rooms contribute the least permit fees and tax revenue and have the least restrictions. (see attached Table comparing: ADU’s, Ohana’s and Rec Rooms) 

Realtors walk a fine line when we euphemistically describe illegal conversions as “great for multi-generational living” or “floor area does not match tax records” or “separate rental potential”. Yet we do this because the market has spoken. The fact that these illegal conversions are so common and so desirable, speaks to the urgent need of otherwise law-abiding homeowners to beat the high costs of living in Hawaii.

Although the City’s Sustainable Community Plans are moving towards the notion of ADU’s, any substantial policy shift is years away from approval. What’s needed is grass-roots community involvement to catalyze the process.

2010.05.26_Accessory Dwellin Unit as a way to achieve Affordable Housing in Honolulu -

2010.05.26_Talking Points -

2010.05.26_ADU vs Ohana vs Rec Room_Table -