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‘Tiny homes’ bill is vetoed

July 16, 2017 - 12:05am

After making it all the way to the governor’s desk in its first year of introduction, a bill that would have allowed “tiny homes” to be built on Hawaii Island agricultural land has been vetoed.

In a press release, the Governor’s Office stated the veto came because Hawaii County’s zoning laws already allow for farm dwellings on agricultural-zoned lands.

The zoning code defines a farm dwelling as a single-family dwelling “located on or used in connection with a farm, or if the agricultural activity provides income to the family occupying the dwelling.”

According to the release, in 2015 and 2016 the county Planning Department approved all farm dwelling applications, for a total of 27 new buildings.

The tiny homes bill was introduced as a way to address Hawaii Island’s affordable housing issue as it related to farm employees. Tiny homes are houses that are less than 500 square feet.

“We’ve been (challenged) in expanding agriculture because we have to deal with meeting the needs of farmworkers, and farmworkers are not the owners of the land,” said Rep. Cindy Evans, D-North Kona, North Kohala, South Kohala, who introduced the bill. “If they can’t live on the land, they have to get transportation, and a lot of our agricultural lands, especially on the Big Island, are very isolated.”

“I think housing has been one of those barriers…the whole intent of the (new) law was to get more people into farming and expanding their farms,” she said.

Evans said it was now up to county officials to demonstrate that the existing laws could in fact accommodate tiny homes.

“I’m hoping that the planning director and the mayor show that they’re very proactive by getting farmers on the land and working with all of the people,” she said. “I think it’s a call to action, if they claim it can be done.”

“I plan on keeping in contact with the County Council and asking them to watch this.”

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