Honolulu mayor signs ADU incentive bill into law

Oahu homeowners will now be able to save up to $10,000 in application fees when building an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) on their property.

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell signed Bill 27 into law Thursday, which waives all building permit, grading, and inspection fees, and wastewater facility charges, for a two-year period.

It also permanently waives park dedication requirements for ADUs.

“We have challenged the building industry to design and produce a range of ADUs that homeowners could easily add to their lots to help solve the rental housing crisis,” Caldwell said. “We heard from contractors that a temporary fee waiver would really help them to sell ADU packages and ramp up production – like it did with the solar panel industry.”

Last September, Caldwell signed a bill to allow ADUs, but the city received complaints from homeowners who said the fees were an added expense that might keep them from doing so.

When we last spoke to Kailua resident Peter Michelmore in January, he was frustrated over the ADU permit process.

“It was extremely frustrating. My mom is calling me every day. I’m a contractor by day, running around, and I’ve got to stop, go downtown, find parking for my big truck which is impossible, run in, sit there for two hours,” he said. “I did that twice a week since January.”

Michelmore says it took nine months to finally get the green light to start building an ADU for his 84-year-old mother.

When Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell approved the building of ADUs last year, he was optimistic: “We thought, okay, now we’re going to see more affordable rentals take off on Oahu.”

But we didn’t. Caldwell hopes the waiver will change things.

“We want it to go quicker. (We want) more folks building units, more young folks and older folks getting into affordable rentals, so the government can provide the incentives and step away,” he said.

So far, 39 permits have been approved with 129 awaiting approval.

Homeowners who applied for an ADU permit and have paid the fees will be refunded the fees if requested.

Michelmore says he plans to do that, but “I won’t count my chickens just yet.”

Those seeking an after-the-fact building permit to convert an illegally constructed structure into a legal ADU will not be eligible for the fee waiver.

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