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Big Changes at the Department of Planning and Permitting

Honolulu’s Department of Planning and Permitting is undergoing some major changes, all intended to increase access to affordable housing and streamline the permitting process for new builds. Here’s what you need to know: 

Updated Affordable Housing Income Limits 

The DPP recently updated it’s method for determining affordable housing income limits. The guidelines now align with the limits established by the Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corporation (HHFDC).

As a result, the 2021 affordable housing income limits decreased 4.0%, representing the biggest drop in income limits since 2001. Additionally, the maximum rent for affordable rental units decreased by an average of 7.1%

The new guidelines are intended to help more Hawaiians qualify to purchase or lease affordable housing on Oahu. Maximum monthly housing payments  are based on income qualifiers of Low, Very Low, and Extremely Low in order to best serve a variety of economic situations. 

In addition to the updated income guidelines, The Honolulu City Council approved a $170 million toward affordable housing measures. 

Electronic-Only Permit Applications 

For over 20 years, anyone hoping to get a building permit approved in Honolulu has been forced to navigate the outdated DPP permit filing system. Applicants were allowed to submit both paper or electronic plans, which created duplicates, loopholes, and major inefficiencies. 

As of June 2021, the department only accepts electronic building plans through it’s ePlans system. This applies exclusively to the new construction of residential properties, although plans for additions and alterations, as well as commercial projects, are all slated to go online by 2022.  

The City Council also approved a $300,000 budget to modernize and upgrade the software used by the Department of Planning and Permitting 

No More Cash Payments 

In response to the federal indictment charges against five DPP employees involved in a bribery scandal, the Department of Planning and Permitting has announced a series of sweeping reforms designed to prevent future malfeasance. 

In addition to computerizing all permit submissions, the DPP is also eliminating  cash payments and fully digitizing the payment process. The possibility of adding a built-in auditing mechanism is also being considered.  

By going fully online with both the application and payment process, the DPP hopes to eliminate any opportunity for wrong-doing while simultaneously improving efficiency. 

A report from an independent investigator and the hiring of a “special master” to investigate management issues are also intended to reform the department.

Navigating Change with HPP

Whether you’re designing a new home, remodeling your current space, or hoping to build much-needed affordable housing options, Home Planning Hawaii is here to help. We offer free resources and advice from Hawaii’s best architects, draftsmen, and interior designers, as well as our free online estimator for a jump start to your next project.