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City Council committee advances "monster homes" bill

Demolishing monster homes after they're built, and fining contractors who keep building when they're told not to. Tho...

Posted: Jul 21, 2018 8:17 AM
Updated: Jul 21, 2018 8:17 AM

Demolishing monster homes after they're built, and fining contractors who keep building when they're told not to. Those are at the heart of two bills circulating at the Honolulu City Council. The council's zoning and housing committee met Thursday.

Massive multi-unit homes like this one are the target of Honolulu City Council's bills 50 and 53. Honolulu City Council Chair Ernie Martin states, "We need to take a very hard position."

Bill 50 would allow the city to retroactively demolish monster homes that violate the building code. Councilmember Ann Kobayashi asks the city's Department of Planning and Permitting Acting Director Kathy Sokugawa about contractors who keep building, even when told to stop. "Can't they be forced to tear down what was built before the Stop Work Order?" questions Kobayashi. Sokugawa responds, "Not under today's law. Under the current law they have to correct violations."

Bill 50 would be the first ordinance legalizing demolition of what's already built. Most public reaction favored the bill, or wanted more teeth to it. DeMart Connor, who supports the bills, says, "The enforcement part about tearing down the homes is a great idea. But it happens down the line, not at the initial part."

Former Gov. Neil Abercrombie also testified in support of the bills. He told the committee, "Those of us working now to get affordable housing, myself included- I'm really outraged by the cynicism and contempt exercised here," referring to contractors who build even after the city issues a stop-work order. "Give 'em the hammer! Let the city hit them hard."

A second proposal, Bill 53, heavily increases fines for contractors who continue building after a stop work order is issued. It would provide a $10,000 a day fine for any contractor who continues working after a stop work order has been issued, or ten times the building fee permit- whichever is greater.

It also requires the city Department of Planning and Permitting to inform the state every time a builder violates the building code. The city wants to involve the state because the state issues the contractor licenses. Build 53 also does not allow any fines to be forgiven.

Honolulu City Council member Trevor Ozawa expressed frustration with the ongoing issue and the loopholes that he says certain contractors use to get around the laws. "It's hurting our younger generation and older generation, and everything about a community that is good."

Both bills passed the first committee reading and now move to a public hearing and a full City Council hearing on August 15.

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