Developers to pay school impact fees for new homes built in urban Honolulu

Developers to pay school impact fees for new homes built in urban Honolulu
New homes built in the Kalihi-Ala Moana corridor will have to pay school impact fees beginning in October. (Image: Hawaii News Now)
New homes built in the Kalihi-Ala Moana corridor will have to pay school impact fees beginning in October. (Image: Hawaii News Now)
New homes built in the Kalihi-Ala Moana corridor will have to pay school impact fees beginning in October. (Image: HIDOE)
New homes built in the Kalihi-Ala Moana corridor will have to pay school impact fees beginning in October. (Image: HIDOE)

KALIHI, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Those looking to build a home in the areas between Kalihi and Ala Moana should know that starting Oct. 1 — construction is going to come with an added cost.

That's because home builders and residential developers in the Kalihi-Ala Moana urban corridor will now have to pay a $3,864 school impact fee when applying for new residential building permits.

The fee was approved last summer by the state Board of Education and will affect future home builders in areas in the Farrington and McKinley complexes, which include 10 elementary schools.

The fee comes amid expectations of a boom in construction in areas along the rail line, that could trigger the need for as many as nine new schools. The fee serves as a way for developers to pitch in on the costs associated with the newly expected campuses.

The Hawaii Legislature established school impact fees in 2007, and back in 2016, Corey Rosenlee, president of the Hawaii State Teachers Association, said the Kalihi-Ala Moana area was long overdue for a school impact fee.

"Hawaii schools on average are 65 years old and they're falling apart," said Rosenlee, whose union represents thousands of Hawaii public school teachers.

At the time, Rosenlee was at a meeting at Farrington High school, where the auditorium had collapsed, highlighting the need for a boost to school funding.

It took four years and $12 million to restore the auditorium.

"If it had been an hour later, there would have been children that would have probably died in that auditorium," Rosenlee said in 2016. "At some point we need to get serious about funding our schools and our facilities."

The fee would apply to new homes, housing developments, and affordable housing projects — with a few exceptions. So far, HIDOE has collected a combined $4.7 million in school impact fees in Leeward Oahu, as well as West and Central Maui.

In the past, some city officials have expressed concern that the new impact fees could hinder development.

"This is gonna dampen the development potential," Kathy Sokugawa told Hawaii News Now back when the fee was first introduced.

However, the recently established school impact fee is significantly less than the initial $9,374 fee proposed by the Board of Education two years ago.

Officials reduced the fee after the Board of Education required less land for schools in the urban core in its fee analysis, where development is more expensive and schools can be built vertically.

"School impact fees would help to offset the cost of accommodating additional students, but the fees are only assessed if and when that development occurs," said Dann Carlson, assistant superintendent of HIDOE, in a news release.

"The estimated 39,000 additional dwelling units for this stretch of urban Honolulu, if built, will have a significant impact on the public school system," Carlson said.

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