Tiny homes could soon be allowed for Hawaii island farmers

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Amid a huge housing crises and movement toward local farming, state lawmakers want the Big Island to be a testing ground for tiny homes, but there are concerns. The bill which is on the governor's desk, authorizes houses less than 500 square be allowed for farmers on Hawaii island. While there are health, safety and enforcement concerns, others believe tiny homes could be big benefit.

Habitats Hawaii on the Big Island has been designing tiny homes for more than a decade. The average is 20 feet by 9 feet of living space on wheels. Following a national trend and TV shows on tiny living, the movement is growing in Hawaii.

"I think there is definitely a need for this to make alternative type housing available," said Barrie Rose of Habitats Hawaii.

Rep. Cindy Evans (D-North Kona, North Kohala, South Kohala) says tiny homes help reduce barriers for Big Island farmers and workers who face lack of housing, high rent and long-drives to their lots. Some farmers live in tents because of that.

"They have a job but they don't really have housing where they work," said Rep. Evans.

There are critics who fear an explosion of unregulated homes on ag land. The bill leaves rules up to Hawaii county. Big Island Mayor Harry Kim wrote in testimony he doesn't like the idea of the state overriding county ordinances, but he's directed his departments to look for housing solutions which could include tiny homes

State officials are also concerned about enforcement and possible pesticide exposure to people in the little houses.

"We are not trying to circumvent public health issues, public safety issues in terms of all your electrical and your plumbing an toilet and shower, public health and safety and following codes, we never wanted to eliminate that," said Rep. Evans.

Long-time Big Island farmer, Richard Ha, says tiny homes will help prevent agricultural theft which is a major problem for farmers.

"The person who's actually living there, then that person can take care of the security for his equipment. Otherwise the equipment has to be hauled away," said Ha.

Rose says her tiny homes on wheels are a form of art and sell for 75-thousand dollars.The ones meant for farm lots would have to be a lot cheaper.

The tiny homes bill is awaiting Governor Ige's signature.