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Hawaii’s governor has enacted housing laws designed to assist local residents in remaining in the islands

200-unit affordable housing complex under construction (Via Evan Black/Shutterstock)

Hawaii Governor Josh Green signed legislation on Tuesday aimed at kickstarting the construction of more housing units to address a severe housing shortage that is causing native residents to leave for states with lower living costs.

The new laws include mandates for counties to permit at least two additional units on residential lots and to repurpose commercial buildings in business districts for residential use. Another measure allows state bonds to finance housing infrastructure.

Governor Green, a Democrat, highlighted that Hawaii faces shortages of essential workers like teachers, nurses, and firefighters due to housing affordability issues.

“We have significant imbalances,” Green stated at a press conference before signing the bills. “This legislation aims to restore some equilibrium.”

Representative Luke Evslin, a Democrat and chair of the House Housing Committee, acknowledged that while the laws won’t immediately resolve Hawaii’s housing crisis, they represent the most significant regulatory and zoning reforms in over four decades.

“There is strong evidence that increasing housing supply can help stabilize or even slow down the rise in housing prices,” Evslin noted.

The parking lot of a shopping plaza (Via Marshal Plaza/Shutterstock)

The legislation mandating more housing units faced resistance in the Legislature, with concerns from lawmakers that it could negatively impact neighborhoods.

Senator Stanley Chang, a Democrat and chair of the Senate Housing Committee, clarified that under the new law, counties still retain authority over minimum lot sizes and permit approvals for infrastructure.

Evslin emphasized that the bill promoting adaptive reuse of buildings will contribute to the revitalization of downtown areas and underutilized shopping malls, potentially allowing more people to live closer to their workplaces if they choose to do so.

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