Ask the Mayor: How Can We Stop ‘Ohana Rentals?

May 22, 2016, 12:02 PM HST · Updated May 22, 12:25 PM
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Maui ‘ohana. Photo credit: Debra Lordan

Maui ‘ohana. Photo credit: Debra Lordan

Mayor Alan Arakawa answers some of the questions submitted to his office staff.

Submit your own questions about County of Maui programs, services, operations or policies to Mayor Alan Arakawa via email at [email protected], call 270-7855 or send them by mail to 200 S. High St., 9th Floor, Wailuku, HI 96793. Questions submitted will be considered for inclusion in the “Ask the Mayor” column.

Hello,

Q: How can we stop ‘ohana rentals? Is the island really that small with no space left to build proper roads and proper neighborhoods? No, there is a lot of space left, yet we still cram people into ‘ohana rentals.

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I have ‘ohana rentals all around me in my neighborhood and the lack of space it creates is not pleasant!

Maui has taken away my ability to enjoy living here—no space, privacy or peace!

Please stop cramming people in and stop this from continuing! Aloha.

A: You raise an interesting question, to which there are many sides. It’s clear that land and housing costs in Hawai‘i are among the highest in the nation, and ‘ohana units are a major component of our rental housing stock for local working families. In fact, Honolulu recently adopted a law to allow ‘ohana units for the first time.

We would be in dire straits without them, and in recognition of this, there is an item pending before the County Council to expand the opportunities for ‘ohana; for example, one idea is to allow ‘ohana on smaller lots as long as they are rented at affordable rates, and another would allow two ‘ohana on larger lots.

Some feel like you do, that ‘ohana take away privacy and space; others feel that they keep family and friends close by.

Keep in mind that with or without ‘ohana, homes can be built up to building setback lines. From the perspective of the County Code, ‘ohana are called “accessory dwellings” and their sizes and allowed areas are regulated by Chapter 19.35, which was first adopted in 1982 by ordinance 1269. Before that, properties were allowed to have “guest houses” for temporary guests, “accessory living quarters” for people employed on the premises and “servants’ quarters” for the household’s help.

As a reflection of the times, ordinance 1269 removed these terms from the County Code, and instead allowed “accessory dwellings” in order to “secure affordable housing and to preserve the extended family.”

The ordinance, by limiting ‘ohana to lots that are 7,500 square feet or greater, also recognized the need to provide adequate infrastructure, open space, air and light.

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