How Bill 57 Impacts New Construction

In May of 2019 the Honolulu City Council passed Bill 79 (Ordinance 19-006), which limited the number of bathrooms allowed in a residence. This ordinance was designed to prevent the construction of illegal rental or vacation units built under the guise of being a single family home.  However, because these limitations were based on property size instead of the size of the home, the ordinance caused unforeseen issues regarding legitimate property development.

For example, properties greater than 10,000 square feet and with a zoning designation permitting  the construction of multiple homes could not be developed— because the ordinance did not allow for sufficient bathrooms in each individual  residence. Additionally, existing property owners on already developed properties were prevented from adding a new bathroom to their home. 

Bill 57 was drafted in order to modify the language of Ordinance 19-006, changing the number of allowable bathrooms to be based on living area instead of on property size. However, in response to concerns raised during  public hearings, the committee made additional revisions to Bill 57 for final approval. 

These additional revisions reduced the number of allowable wet bars from 2 to 1, created a chart to determine the number of bathrooms permitted, and increased property setback requirements from 8 feet to 11 feet if the living space equals 60-70% of the property size.

Unfortunately, while the additional revisions may limit the construction of oversized “monster homes” it also negatively impacts homeowners hoping to make an addition to their home or rebuild on their property. And since most existing homes in Hawaii are already just 8 feet away from their property line, the increase to 11 feet means many remodel or rebuilding projects won’t qualify for a building permit. 

Lastly, changes were made regarding the temporary certificate of occupancy issued to homeowners after building a new home. These certificates were issued to homeowners to verify that  they had not made any additional changes and that their new home was not being used as a rental or vacation unit. Previously, these were issued one year after the home was completed. Increasing the time to two years acts as a further safeguard against illegal modifications or rentals. 

For most existing homeowners or property-owners intending to start construction on a new home, the requirements in Bill 57 are manageable. However, if you are planning on remodeling or rebuilding your home, building an ADU/Ohana unit, or otherwise executing a large-scale remodeling project, it’s important to work with your architect and contractor to ensure your home complies with the regulations established in this ordinance. Contact us today for help navigating the permitting process, finding the right contractor for your project, or just to learn more about Honolulu’s current residential zoning and construction regulations.

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