Housing in Brief: Honolulu Proposes ‘Massive Escalation’ of Anti-Homeless Law

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Housing in Brief: Honolulu Proposes ‘Massive Escalation’ of Anti-Homeless Law

Also: European cities move reclaim AirBnB units for locals, and Urban Institute shares guidance on making the most of land-use reforms. 

In this April 21, 2016 photo, Sean Kohashikawa, 32, shows his support for Hawaii's homeless people outside the state capitol in Honolulu.  (AP Photo/Cathy Bussewitz)

New Homeless Restrictions in Honolulu

A proposed bill in Honolulu would criminalize sitting or lying down on a public sidewalk within 800 feet of a park or school between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m., a “massive escalation” of existing “sit-lie” laws that target homeless people in the city, according to a report in Honolulu Civil Beat. The city has already banned sitting, lying down, obstructing sidewalks, or storing belongings on public property in Waikiki and 17 other neighborhoods, according to the report. The bill was introduced by City Council Chair Ann Kobayashi, who proposed a similar ordinance in 2017, the report says. The earlier proposal was not approved by the city council, and the new one has drawn opposition from advocates for housing and people experiencing homelessness, according to the report.

The report notes that the bill does not include any additional funding for housing or homelessness services, and that such programs account for less than 1% of the city’s annual budget. Estimates cited in the report suggest that it would cost less than 2% of the city’s budget to provide permanent supportive housing for everyone who needs it. City officials told Honolulu Civil Beat that they are trying to balance the rights of people experiencing homelessness with the rights of people to traverse sidewalks and use public parks. Wookie Kim, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii, said that the sit-lie laws are “legally dubious,” according to the report.

“We want safe and clean and strong communities,” Kim said, according to the report. “But using handcuffs and destroying property and trampling over rights because of the fact that someone doesn’t have a home to retreat to, that is not OK.”

European Cities Reclaim AirBnB Units for Housing

Taking advantage of the global slowdown in tourism, some cities in Europe are beginning to explore policies and programs that return short-term rental units like those listed on AirBnB to the permanent housing market, according to a report in the New York Times. City officials and housing activists have long pointed out that short-term rentals skew housing markets by reserving units only for people who are visiting temporarily and driving up costs for people seeking permanent housing. Many cities have passed laws limiting the number of days per year that people can rent their units through services like AirBnB and VRBO, but those rules are not always evenly enforced, the report notes.

“We cannot tolerate that accommodations that could be rented to Parisians are now rented all year to tourists,” Ian Brossat, the deputy mayor of Paris, told the Times. “Airbnb pretends to respect the law, but it’s not the case.”

Lisbon, Portugal, has begun renting apartments from landlords and subletting them to people who qualify for subsidized housing, the report says. Barcelona is considering seizing short-term rental units from their owners, Amsterdam has been banning short-term rentals in certain parts of the city, and Paris, which has 60,000 AirBnB listings, is considering a referendum that would limit short-term rentals across the city, according to the report. Patrick Robinson, Airbnb’s director of public policy for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, told the Times that the company seeks to comply with all local laws.

“Where there is a vigorous discussion about the right regulations, we’re part of that conversation, and ultimately that’s for local politicians to decide,” Robinson said, according to the report.

How to Make the Most of Laws Promoting Accessory Dwelling Units

A new report from the Urban Institute suggests that cities looking to maximize the impact of land-use reforms to boost housing production should align zoning reforms with other planning polices, take input from a broad set of people representing the demographics of the city, and continuously update policies after they take effect.

The report is based on case studies of laws promoting the creation of accessory-dwelling units in Portland and Washington, D.C. Portland saw a 600 percent increase of annual ADU production, to 632 units in 2018, after a set of reforms and fee waivers passed in 2010, the report says. D.C. went from producing one ADU per year to 23 ADUs per year after a set of reforms passed in 2016, according to the report. Portland’s reforms “passed more easily and had greater impact on housing production” than D.C.’s, partly because Portland’s comprehensive plan was more coherent in its calls for promoting density and preventing sprawl, the report says.

D.C. officials also over-relied on input from volunteer participants in reform meetings, who tended to skew whiter and wealthier than the whole population, versus more representative survey data used in Portland, the report says. Portland also continued to reform its ADU rules after the initial changes, and aligned other zoning and building codes to promote lowering barriers to ADU production, according to the report.

“When the “developers” are homeowners (who have much less technical capacity and capital), as is the case with ADUs, the barriers are particularly important to address, especially if ADU production is expected to become a significant source of housing production for a city,” the report says.

This article is part of Backyard, a newsletter exploring scalable solutions to make housing fairer, more affordable and more environmentally sustainable. Subscribe to our weekly Backyard newsletter.

Jared Brey is Next City's housing correspondent, based in Philadelphia. He is a former staff writer at Philadelphia magazine and PlanPhilly, and his work has appeared in Columbia Journalism Review, Landscape Architecture Magazine, U.S. News & World Report, Philadelphia Weekly, and other publications.

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Tags: homelessnessairbnbaccessory dwelling unitshonolulu

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