A bill currently under consideration by the Hawaii State Legislature would allow for the construction of houses less than 500 square feet to help increase affordable housing options in the state’s agricultural districts, Pacific Business News reported.
Local farmers support the legislation, saying it would help retain workers while reducing theft. The tiny-house allowance would be granted for counties with populations between 180,000 and 250,000.
Hawaii’s Department of Agriculture and the County of Hawaii’s planning department voiced opposition to the bill, citing the potential negative impact on agricultural lands if the tiny homes were to become housing communities.
Hawaii continues to face a critical shortage of housing options. Two of the nation’s least-affordable counties are in the state, based on calculations of home costs versus average income by 24/7 Wall St. A recent analysis by Bankrate listed Hawaii as the second-to-worst state for millennial homebuyers, ahead of only California. And in Honolulu, rental prices today are almost 6% ahead of where they were a year ago.
Low inventory and high demand aren’t helping. For example, in Oahu, the island that is home to Honolulu, historically low stock drove single-family housing prices up 3% from September 2015 to September 2016 and condo prices up 5% for the period. An increase in vacation rentals is also contributing to an overall shortage of housing options.
In addition to the agriculture proposal, affordable housing advocates and some lawmakers are promoting tiny house accessory dwelling units (ADUs) as one way to address the state’s affordable housing shortage.
Hawaii isn’t alone in considering tiny houses as a solution for inventory and affordability woes. In Walsenburg, CO, legislators began allowing homes under 600 square feet to help ease affordability issues for workers. The local government in the San Juan Islands, in Washington, is also exploring the feasibility of tiny homes for seasonal workers and permanent residents.
For more housing news, sign up for our daily residential construction newsletter.