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Is an Ohana Unit Right for You?

If you’re preparing for a transition to a multigenerational living arrangement this year, you might need to adapt your home to accommodate the needs of multiple families living under one roof. Whether it’s aging parents, adult children, or grandchildren moving into your home, you’ll need to create a space that’s both welcoming and functional.

Fortunately, Hawaiian families and governing bodies are well-acquainted with the concept of multigenerational living—as evidenced by the increasing number of home construction ordinances designed to help families reduce housing costs by combining resources and space. From ADUs to Ohana Units, Hawaii is rapidly becoming increasingly multigenerational family-friendly.

Recent changes to the regulations regarding Ohana Units make remodeling your home easier than ever. Unlike an ADU, an Ohana unit does not require separate kitchen and bathroom facilities. Instead, Ohana Units only require the installation of a wet bar or kitchenette, but must be attached to the existing home on the property. And as of 2019, 500 square foot Ohana Units can now be built on lots under 7,500, and properties over 7,500 square feet are allowed two additional units, making more homes eligible for multigenerational remodeling projects.

In order to get the required building permit for an Ohana Unit addition or remodel, homeowners will need to submit their construction plans for approval, as well as file a restrictive covenant indicating that the new space will only be occupied by family members, and that future owners will adhere to the covenant as well. Once you’ve secured your permit, it’s time to consider the essential requirements of your multigenerational family, and how your home can adapt to those needs. Here’s a few things to consider:

* Many families prefer to create a separate entrance for each family unit, which provides a sense of privacy and autonomy to all members. For aging parents or individuals with special needs, make sure at least one entrance remains curbless for easy access.

*Save on construction costs by expanding on existing space—convert a second family room into an en suite bedroom, add a wet bar or kitchenette to an existing laundry room, or transform outdoor living spaces into an indoor common area.

*Keep bedrooms and bathrooms on the main floor, and make at least one bathroom ADA compliant—it’s easier for both grandparents and grandchildren to avoid the stairs, and it improves the resale value of your home.

Multigenerational households save money, enjoy better health, and maintain stronger relationships than traditional households. And with the help of a carefully planned remodeling project, it is possible for each family member to maintain their own space while enjoying the benefits of communal living. If you’re ready to transform your home into an Ohana homestead, contact us today for help finding a draftsman, contractor, architect, or third-party permitting coordinator. Wondering how much your addition might cost? Check out our free online project estimator to get started on your budget.