Everything You Need to Know About Hawaii's New Construction Laws

Two recently passed Bills regarding residential building may change the way homeowners, builders, and architects approach Oahu’s home construction process. Bill 79 (Ordinance 19-3,) which replaced Bill 110 (Ordinance 18-6) concerns the approval process for “large dwellings,” or what many refer to as “Monster Homes.” On the other hand, Bill 7 completely reconfigures the building codes for small parcels of land in an attempt to make it easier for property owners to develop affordable housing options for lower income residents.

Interested in building a new home, or transitioning an existing property into a single-family residence? Here’s everything you need to know about both bills, and how they impact new or renovated builds.Bill 79Passed on May 3, 2019, this ordinance replaces its predecessor (Bill 110,) and creates additional guidelines for the construction of large dwellings. Many of the original requirements remain the same—new homes cannot exceed a floor-area-ratio (FAR) of .07, meaning no more than 70% of the property can occupied by the structure.However, additional building regulations require buildings with a FAR greater than .06 to maintain 8-foot rear and side yards, and limits how much of the property can be covered with an impervious material like concrete or asphalt to 75%. The City Council noted that large residential lots covered in concrete surfaces increase potential water-damage via storm-water runoff and raise ambient temperatures.Additional development standards included a maximum height restriction of 15 feet, and mandates that structures exceeding the height requirement must be set further back from all property line boundaries. The Bill maintained existing limits on the number of bathrooms, laundry rooms, and wet bars permitted in a home using a sliding scale based on square footage, as well requiring sufficient parking spaces for each building.Bill 7Created in response to the affordable housing crisis present throughout Hawaii, this law makes it easier to create walk-up rental units for tenants earning 100% or below the city’s area median income. Changes to the zoning laws now allow residents to turn existing buildings or unused property in mixed-use areas into apartments. Due to these changes, currently defunct office or commercial spaces can become housing units throughout the city. Lawmakers suggest these changes could add up to 500 housing units per year to the housing market.Financial incentives are also provided to property owners with lot sizes 20,000 square feet or smaller, including property tax exemptions, building permit fee waivers, fewer parking requirements, and special financing options provided by local banks.Whether you hope to build a new home or renovate a small property into an apartment, Home Planning Hawaii can help. From navigating the ever-changing permitting process, to finding the right contractor or architect, we provide a complete resource guide to connecting with the best construction experts in Hawaii. Contact us today to get started, and don’t forget to check out our free online budget estimator!

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