Signature city program aimed at increasing affordable rentals a bust so far

Signature city program aimed at increasing affordable rentals a bust so far
Published: Jan. 21, 2016 at 10:49 PM HST|Updated: Jan. 22, 2016 at 8:22 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - It's a major part of the city's plan to solve the affordable housing crisis.

But four months after a new law took effect allowing homeowners to build accessory dwelling units on their properties, only one person has been given the OK to start construction.

Turns out the average wait time for a permit is six months.

One of the main issues is that an ADU permit is treated like all other building permits.

Since mid-September, 318 people have submitted ADU pre-check forms to the city, which are now no longer required.

Of the properties that were eligible, only 28 have applied for a building permit. And it wasn't until January the first and only permit was issued -- a far cry from the 5,000 new rentals Mayor Kirk Caldwell said would hit the market.

George Atta, city director of Planning and Permitting, said the city has already started making changes to streamline the process.

"We're learning as we're processing," he said, adding, "Because of the complaints we actually changed our policy. Now the pre-check form is actually voluntary."

There's also been issues in terms of some of the fees and connection charges, which can total thousands of dollars.

"Somebody wants to convert a rec room to a rental unit. That has different issues than if they wanted to build an attachment to the home or if they wanted to build a separate small house," Atta said. "We're revisiting our policy because those three different types of ADUs, it doesn't seem right to charge the same for all of them."

The city says homeowners can dramatically cut down the wait time by hiring a third party reviewer.

Bill Wong of Asia Pacific Architectural Consultants is one of three who is certified to do the job on Oahu.

"The city usually collects a plans review fee for reviewing plans here, but when they hire a third-party reviewer that fee is waived," said Wong.

The city says another way to speed up the process is by hiring a professional to draw up your plans. It's less likely a professional will make mistakes, which draw out the process.

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