Tiny Houses are capturing the imagination as a creative solution to Hawaii’s affordable housing crisis. State Representative Cindy Evans has a pivotal new House Bill (HB2) on the floor that has passed review by both the Agriculture and Judiciary Committees and is now heading for a vote on the floor of the House of Representatives before then heading to the State Senate. Public comments are welcomed by State Legislators who will soon be voting on HB2.
HB2 proposes to allow tiny homes under 500 square feet, on wheels or on permanent foundations, to be installed on farms as farm owner or farm worker housing to help increase local food production and food security on Hawaii Island.
Two lively, high-energy Tiny House Community Conversations in Hawi and Honoka’a have recently seen over 150 people turn out to learn how Tiny Houses could help solve their own housing needs and help solve farm worker, senior and homeless resident housing needs. The standing-room-only sessions opened with a Tiny House Initiative slide show that is now available for viewing through the event host’s web site at www.oneisland.org. The One Island Greenschool’s slide show surveys Tiny Houses and Village designs in Hawaii and the mainland that demonstrate affordable housing solutions. Invited speakers have included Rep. Evans and County Councilmember Tim Richards, designers from the woman-owned Hawaii Habitat design-build company, and members of local Community Development Plan committees are also participating.
The main theme of the town-hall-style meetings that are being held around the island is Farm Housing solutions and the current Bill HB2 that will soon be voted on in the State House of Representatives. Other diverse housing needs are also being discussed – senior housing, artist live-work, returning children, guest housing, and housing for the homeless. Many of the event participants are considering a Tiny House for their own future dwelling or for a family member. There is strong, repeated interest in the use of small footprint homes to create housing clusters, like an eco-village intentional community, homeless community centers, educational farm stays, or for farms and ranch workers. And Native Hawaiian Homeland family members who have been forced to find housing in distant communities are voicing an interest in tiny homes as a means to come back to their family land leases.
State House Representative Cindy Evans currently has two tiny house-related bills on the floor this legislative session. In addition to HB2, HB 229 proposes to remove limitations on overall square footage for any home in Hawaii, allowing for smaller foot print, resource efficient dwellings. After many years of work trying to find a solution to farm housing, Evan’s shares in the excitement about the affordable solutions the smaller foot print ‘tiny home’ movement can offer our island farms and ranches, for single farmer operations as well as ranches and farms needing additional hands.
During the Community Conversations, Kohala’s County Council Member Tim Richards has joined in the conversation and commented on the clear need for “farmers to live on their farms”, confirming the logistical importance of being close to the crops to ensure production and to eliminate loss. He affirmed that if we are to address food self-sufficiency, farm housing is a barrier the County must find ways to overcome. Rep. Evans shared news about a Tiny House showcase she attended on the mainland where a variety of designs demonstrated the livability and resource efficiency of these “Think Big. Live Tiny” houses. Builders from Hawaii Habitats have presented a colorful slideshow of tiny mobile houses they have been constructing on trailer beds that are now serving as beautiful, flexible ‘vacation trailer’ homes around the island. Their cottage-style island designs employ off-grid solar, grey water solutions and composting toilets, are built to code, and are being enjoyed by homeowners around the island.
Following the guest speakers at the meetings, the full-capacity room breaks out into 5 lively small groups to share their personal housing needs, ideas about tiny house affordability, concerns about barriers, and willingness to join in future Tiny House planning activities. Over half of the break out participants are expressing an interest to continue meeting to develop a detailed implementation plan that addresses public and government concerns about Tiny House regulations. This plan can assist the County in writing its own ordinances that permit Tiny Houses and may lower or eliminate cost and paperwork barriers for zoning and building approvals.
The next follow-up meetings, for continuing or new participants, will be held Tuesday, February 28th, 6:30 pm in Kapa’au, and March 22nd in Honoka’a. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org for directions. The public is also invited to participate through the oneisland.org web site and monthly newsletter.