The Honolulu Civil Beat recently reported that Dean Uchida, the Director of the Department of Planning and Permitted (DPP), resigned. In addition, Danette Maruyama, DPP’s chief innovation strategist, also stepped down too.
For years, the DPP has been criticized for being extremely inefficient and ineffective in the planning and permitting process. Also, let's not forget how the DPP was being investigated for its pay-to-play scandal.
One of the main factors contributing to Oahu's housing crisis is the DPP. According to the Honolulu City Council, more than 8,000 permit applications are in the initial processing phase or in review with the DPP.
In addition, as of August 11, 2022:
There were 3,499 applications in the initial processing or pre-screen phase.
4,780 permits in plans review with DPP plan examiners.
1,113 permits approved and waiting to be picked up.
In a 2020 audit, the report noted that that "excessive delays and extended permit review queuing times." Speaking to people who work in the industry, it is common for a permit to take over a year. The backlog is not just frustrating, but it is unacceptable.
Part of the problem is the DPP is understaffed. Since becoming Mayor, the Honolulu City Council created at least 180 positions. Despite this, the DPP struggles to fill positions since the application process can take months. Matter of fact, Hawaii ranks highest in the nation when it comes to homebuilding and permit delays.
I personally know many people who have been waiting for months for their permits to be approved. Permitting delays cause financial burden to the applicant. Home prices in Hawaii are among the highest in the United States. Our high home prices can be a function of not being able to build homes fast enough to meet the demand.
What can we do to build more housing? Here are some ideas:
1. DPP's human resources needs to find a way to expedite the hiring process. With high cost of living and being in a recession, local residents cannot wait months for a job. It is that simple. To parlay this, if the DPP wants to attract quality employees, the DPP should start paying people more. Perhaps the DPP should mimic how trade schools work. Since permitting and planning can require a niche skillset, perhaps having a training program could be a way to hire new employees.
2. Get rid of unnecessary over regulation. According to Carl Bonham, the Executive Director of UHERO, noted that 100% of our affordable housing have additional regulation. This raises costs to builders and or slows does the process to get more housing units into the market. Bonham said, "While we might prefer developers to provide large units with generous amenities at low prices, requiring developers to meet overly rigid guidelines will result in many projects failing to go forward at all."
3. Is inclusionary zoning really helpful? Inclusionary zoning is a regulatory tool or policy that was first developed in the 1970s, and its purpose was to include lower-income families into housing developments.
David Arakawa, the Executive Director of the Land Use Research Foundation, said inclusionary zoning "is used to require developers to include a certain percentage of low-income housing in their development."
Arakawa future explained, "Some developments will describe it as the 'Corolla effect': Government requires you, if you’re talking about cars — if you’re a car manufacturer — it requires you to produce 30% Toyota Corollas, and because you’re producing 30% of Corollas under cost, below cost, you then have to produce 70% or 60% Lexuses to make up for the costs that you’ve lost. Then what happens to the Camry families? The Camry families are left out, or they’re only 10% — developers can only make 10% Camrys."
4. Fill the gap. Our elected officials need to work with real estate developers on how we can create workforce housing for people who earn 80% - 100% of the area median income (AMI). These people are teachers, first responders, and managers. Christine Camp, CEO and President of Avalon, identifies this as "the gap." Camp further states, "This is the gap which funding isn’t available... there are few housing assistance programs for workforce households."
We recently sold a 1-bed/1-bathroom/1-parking fee simple unit at 430 Lewers Street #1904. When we initially listed, mortgage rates were at a near all time high. Despite the unit being turnkey, we did not have much interest. Thankfully, after we reduced the purchase price, we received an offer!
This was a trust sale. The owner passed away and this was his investment property. Thankfully, the entire escrow process was smooth. Most importantly, we are very happy for the new owners!
My friend, Marc Dixon of All State, informed me that 85% of insurance claims to condo owners’ building property are due to water. Interestingly, in late August, my wife and I prevented a home maintenance crisis.
Right after we bathed our son, I noticed the water in the tub started to backup. For some reason, I decided to check the toilet and I noticed the water was rising in the bowl too! As I was turning off the toilet water, the water from the bowl started to leak over. Thankfully, before we moved into our unit, we did a complete home remodel. Part of our remodel was adding new angle vales and a main water shutoff valve.
We quickly contacted the resident manager and he rushed up to our unit. The resident manager then asked our neighbor if his tub and toilet was backed up -- it was. The resident manger was able to unclogged the toilet from our neighbor's side that evening.
Unfortunately, the problem returned the following morning. The resident manager called Mike of Pearl Flo Plumbing and Mike had to snake the neighbor's tub. Per the plumber, he snaked upwards of 40+ feet! Since we have back-to-back plumbing, our tub and toilet were backed up since the neighbor caused the clogged.
Later that day, Mike had to come back since the neighbor sink was now overflowing into our unit's sink. The neighbor admitted to forcing food down the disposal. Since the food had clogged the p-trap, Mike had to snake the main line from our unit.
KHON 2 recently reported that the first Chik-fil-A restaurant in Hawaii opened on September 1st on Maui.
Chik-fil-A plans to open a few more locations:
Ala Moana Center (1450 Ala Moana Blvd, Honolulu), slated to open in late 2022
Makiki (1050 S Beretania Street, Honolulu), slated to open in late 2022
Kapolei Parkway & Kualaka`i (NWC Kualaka`i Pkwy & Kapolei Pkwy, Kapolei), slated to open in late 2022/early 2023
Pacific Business News recently reported that the Honolulu Zoo opened Kapahulu Market, its new new food and beverage facility. Built by the City and County of Honolulu's Department of Design and Construction, the new concept replaces the zoo’s original food and beverage facility that was built in 1951.
What is your favorite animal at the zoo?
In 2018, Honolulu Magazine published an article featuring the a list of essential Hawaii books that one should read in their lifetime. Honolulu Magazine, came out with Part II.
These are some of the essential Hawaii books I enjoyed reading. In no particular order: