City streamlines ADU permit process but backlog remains


Last September, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell signed the accessory dwelling unit law.

It was meant to help fix the affordable housing crunch on Oahu. Since then, hundreds of pre-check forms were received.

The city recently streamlined the application process in hopes of getting more permits approved, but we’re told there is still a backlog.

When we first talked to Kailua resident Peter Michelmore, he was frustrated at the slow-going permit approval process.

“My mother went down to the planning and permitting department and said, ‘Where’s my house? I’m 83 years old. I’m sleeping on my son’s couch. I have no place to live, and I can’t continue doing this.'”

A month later, Michelmore says he’s still waiting.

KHON2 reached out to Honolulu City Council member Ikaika Anderson to get an update on the permit approval process.

“They (the Department of Planning and Permitting) understand that what was occurring prior was unacceptable. They’re working with council and community to lessen time it takes to process and obtain a building permit,” Anderson said.

DPP says it received 366 pre-check forms and 41 building permit applications with plans. Five have been approved.

“ADUs are being treated like any other single-family dwelling, and we must be sure that they meet all building, electrical and plumbing codes before issuing a permit,” said DPP spokesman Curtis Lum.

“The department has made some progress. It’s taking some time, I understand that, but what’s important is they’re making progress,” said Anderson.

DPP says it’s working on a bill to temporarily waive permit fees for ADUs.

Anderson adds that “the department is also in the process of considering hiring more experienced staff, if you will, to deal with permits to process them.”

Lum says there are currently 10 counter clerks sifting through ADU pre-check forms and applications.

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