Sep 25, 2010

Balancing: Housing Affordability vs Energy Efficiency vs Life-Safety

In Honolulu, we are seeing increasing construction costs, seemingly at odds with creating affordable housing. Even for market rate homes, this may have the unintended effect of increasing non-permitted construction activity. 

For example, new Energy Code requirements: attic and wall insulation, low-e windows, and Solar Water heaters required for new dwellings, increase the cost, complexity and delays involved in obtaining permits for new homes and additions/alterations. The reality is that government regulation adds to cost of construction. This added frustration can alienate homeowners who give-up on the permitting process completely and build illegally.

Non-permitted 2nd dwellings have also been a problem in San Francisco. According to the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association, "by 1960 there were between 20,000 and 30,000 secondary units in San Francisco, 90% of which had been built without the proper permits." 

With the recent new ordinances that have recently passed or are proposed for Honolulu, are there any bills aimed at promoting Housing Affordability? This is increasingly becoming a concern not just for those currently on government assistance, but for the middle class. After all, isn't the euphemism for Affordable Housing, Workforce Housing?

While it is important to make progress towards greater energy efficiency and improving life-safety, shouldn't we also take steps to also improve Housing Affordability?