Building Permits in Hawaii

Why Double the Time for Building Permits in Hawaii

Building Permits in Hawaii

Hawaii’s builders, contractors, and designers continue suffering under the significant slowdowns in the building permit processing. Permits for accessory dwelling units (ADU), which according to the laws of Hawaii must be in the hands of the builder within 60 days, are taking double that amount of time, said Marshall Hickox, president of Homeworks Construction and president-elect of the Building Industry Association of Hawaii.

In fact, Hickox had this to say last month:

We’re bracing for a pretty massive slowdown in work, and yes, there are going to be layoffs.

Hickox laid off a project manager’s assistant last week and one of ten people he had on staff at Homeworks’ office. This is prime time for Hawaii construction, yet contractors are minimizing staff and watch as subcontractors sit idle. Waiting for permits is costing contractors “eight times as much money” on the process.

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What is Causing the Delay in Permit Processing?

The acting director of the Department of Planning and Permitting, Kathy Sokugawa, shared with Janis L. Magin of Pacific Business News several reasons for the slowdown, as seen by the department:

  • Additional regulations, i.e., erosion and sediment control rules
  • Staff shortages
  • The City Council’s end to the building of “monster homes” and the Council’s delayed permit processing because inspectors now have to check the floor area of every new residential permit application
  • Shortage of resources to respond to new and ever-increasing regulations
  • The low quality of accurate applicants received by the DPP

Contractors, like Hickox, declare previous costs of $350 to $400 when the DPP was running smoothly, is now up to $2,700 of human resources.

Hickox continued by saying:

We don’t feel that the normal process is going to be adequate enough to keep the industry supported. We feel there needs to be emergency legislation or a moratorium. We’re all raising our hands and saying we’ll take responsibility.

So many builders believe the City Council must do more to find solutions and “narrow down what the real problems are.”

Recommended Solutions

In October, the Honolulu City Council’s Zoning & Housing Committee member, Kymberly Marcos Pine, introduced Resolution 18-208. The goal: to establish a group of individuals who’ll investigate why the delays in the permitting process by the DPP are continuing.

The resolution points out:

Regular complaints from constituents and developers [received by the Department, complain] that the building permit process at the DPP is cumbersome and lengthy

Pine also shares it’s time to treat developers as “true partners.” She noted that affordable housing solutions should be a priority and builders must not be forced to miss this opportune moment for construction. Although the Council approved funding for ten additional employees at the DPP, the increase of staff seems to have made no difference in the rate of delayed permits. Pine said the Council had asked the DPP how many more employees are needed.

Tips on Speeding up Your Chances of Receiving a Building Permit

Because acquiring permits is one of Owner Built Design’s primary services, we do have a few suggestions that could at least help in keeping your application from being stuck in the DPP log jam forever.

Allow us to share a few ideas that might give you a bit of a boost when seeking permit nirvana:

  • Ensure your project meets all local building codes and is safely built.
  • Acquire a building permit (some do not and face hefty fines or worse).
  • Carefully prepare and be patient.
  • Research the types of permits you’ll need for your project.
  • Begin online. The DPP has public computers you can use, if necessary.
  • Get drawings from someone who knows what he or she is doing (hint, hint...).
  • Understand the neighborhood easement requirements.
  • Know that owner/builder projects receive a bit more leeway than contractors.
  • Retaining walls of 30″, sidewalk repairs, sheds, playhouses under 120 square feet, and other such minor construction does not necessitate a permit.
  • Be polite!

We Can Help!

Obtaining building permits in Hawaii can be a hassle. Yet, Oahu’s Owner Built Design, LLC can assist you with any or all of these tips. You don’t have to do your building all alone. We can help you with the permit processing, with expert, easy to understand, permit-ready drawings and design ideas.

Thirty years of experience in Oahu and other areas of Hawaii makes Owner Built Design a business on which you can rely. This Hawaii drafting service company is friendly, experienced, and professional. We know how to work with the DPP, and we know Honolulu building permit requirements like the back of our hands.

Contact us today for more information.

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