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Update on tiny house rules in Maui County

By Staff | Aug 3, 2017

Tiny homes are a common sense and an increasingly popular housing option for residents who are looking for simple, small and inexpensive housing. They also leave a small footprint on the land, resources and infrastructure. They are especially suited to our island lifestyle, where land is limited, community is important and we spend a lot of time outdoors.

Last year, I chaired the Temporary Investigative Group on Increasing the Inventory of Housing, and the group prioritized “exploring zoning and permitting issues relating to the establishment of tiny house communities and tiny houses on existing lots.”

This group was made up of home finance professionals, developers, contractors and Realtors, and their support of this concept shows me that our community is willing to allow creative solutions to our housing crisis to meet a wide range of needs for our residents. I am excited that tiny homes are one of those solutions.

I am especially excited about the concept of tiny homes on wheels. These homes are built on a trailer, registered with the Department of Motor Vehicles, and are completely self-sufficient when it comes to infrastructure needs. They run on solar power, have composting toilets and have water catchment systems. Tiny houses on wheels (not a foundation) do not need a building permit if they are not hooked up to any county infrastructure (water, sewer, electric).

Tiny houses on wheels do count as dwelling units, though, and are subject to zoning restrictions. That means you can park a tiny home on your property if your property legally allows for an ohana. You can ask for exemptions to zoning regulations if you want to have a small cluster of tiny houses on wheels, for example, by applying for a conditional use permit. That process requires approval by the Planning Commission and the County Council to determine if the project is appropriate for the area and in line with the needs of the surrounding community.

Right now, my office is drafting legislation to add a special definition of tiny houses on wheels to the zoning code to allow for more density of these homes in appropriate areas. Changes like this can take time to work through our legislative process, but it is my sincere hope that my fellow members and I can come together and work through the details of this legislation quickly, so these can become an increasingly available solution for our residents who are feeling the effects of our housing crisis.