New Law Makes It Easier To Build Ohana Units On Maui

Posted by Staff Writer on Monday, February 4th, 2019 at 9:30am

It just got a whole lot easier to build ohana units on Maui properties, marking a win in the fight against the island’s affordable housing crisis.

Under the previous law, Maui property owners weren’t allowed to have any ohana units if their lot was under 7,500 square feet — and regardless of their lot size, they could only have one. But under the new law, lots under 7,500 square feet can now have a unit up to 500 square feet, while lots above 7,500 square feet can have have two ‘ohanas. The policy also expands the maximum size of the units, in addition for allowing more off-street parking.

Officially called accessory dwelling units, ohana units go by several of names, including granny flats, mother-in-law flats and garage apartments. They have their own kitchen, bathroom and sleeping areas and can take a variety of shapes — for example, detached from the main house like a cottage, or attached to an existing home or garage.

Policy experts have touted the units as a critical tool to boost the availability of affordable housing. For years, the state of Hawai’i, including Maui, has been in an affordable housing crisis. Single-family home prices and rents are some of the highest in the nation, but wages haven’t kept up. Between 2005 and 2011 alone, rents rose 45 percent, leaving many renters forced to choose between basic necessities like housing, medicine, food or child care.

“This crisis can only resolved with an adequate stock of affordable housing for our entire community,” stated a report by Hawai’i Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice. “Accessory dwelling units are a promising strategy that engages the private sector to create more affordable rentals at minimal cost to the state and counties.”

The new law change is a win for both property owners and renters. Homeowners can choose to rent out the units for additional income, or use the spaces to house elderly loved ones who otherwise might not be able to afford the island’s sky-high cost of living. The units are much cheaper to build than other rental types and can cost anywhere from $40,000 to the price of a traditional residential build, depending on a property owner’s budget, according to Hawai’i Appleseed’s report. And if you’re planning to modify an existing home or structure, the price tag could be even lower.

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