With fees gone, interest in accessory dwelling units is up

With fees gone, interest in accessory dwelling units is up
Published: Oct. 24, 2016 at 10:25 PM HST|Updated: Oct. 24, 2016 at 11:16 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The city is working to speed up the approval process for Oahu homeowners who want to add an accessory dwelling unit on their properties.

Interest in ADUs is up since the city did away with thousands of dollars in fees for the program.

Design Trends Construction President Greg Liu said the industry is growing -- slowly. The company is involved in half a dozen ADU projects this year.

"I think everybody starts a little skeptical and then as they see other people doing it and they see other successful projects, I think they will be less apprehensive to proceed," he said.

In an effort to ease Oahu's affordable housing crisis, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell signed the ADU law in September 2015, allowing people to build a rental unit on their lot.

And this past July, the city approved a two-year fee waiver that would save applicants up to $10,000. City officials said they've also taken steps to reduce the backlog of ADU building permit applications.

"I think there's been significant reduction in the amount of time that it takes, but we're in a construction boom right now so city permit stuff are overloaded so it can take a little while to review them," said Harrison Rue, the city's community building and transit-oriented development administrator.

More than 900 pre-check forms for ADU applications have been submitted as of Oct. 14, according to the city's Department of Planning and Permitting.

Meanwhile, 85 ADU building permits have been approved and 89 applications are under review.

As part of the new fee waiver law, the city has 60 calendar days from the time an application is accepted to act on it, otherwise the application is automatically approved.

Rue said a couple of firms have also submitted their basic ADU models for approval, which should eventually help to simplify the process. Once the industry gears up, he expects to see a couple hundred ADU units produced each year.

"It's going about as much as we expected, but not as fast as we'd hoped for. We always hope people are going to jump into gear and magically solve a great housing need," he said.

The city has reimbursed people who paid fees before the waiver law. Homeowners have been refunded more than $193,296 in sewer connection fees and $35,724 in building permit and plan review fees, according to DPP officials.

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