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Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell signs bills to help with economic recovery

Mayor Kirk Caldwell today signed a bill that overhauls the city’s Energy Code to include, among other things, a requirement that builders set aside a certain number of its parking stalls to accommodate the charging of electrical vehicles.

An earlier version of Bill 25 (2019) that had been backed by the Caldwell administration called for more stringent requirements but met with stiff resistance from developers, Hawaii Gas and worker unions.

At a press conference today, Caldwell said that despite the compromises, the bill represented a “good first step” toward a more sustainable Oahu.

Josh Stanbro, the executive director of the city’s Office of Climate Change, Sustainability and Resiliency, said Bill 25’s passage means every new home that is being built on Oahu will be ready for the installation of photovoltaic units and electric vehicle charging stations. In addition, the bill requires new parking lots be built with 25% of the stalls wired for electric vehicle chargers. The electric chargers are optional, but 25% of stalls must be equipped to have the chargers installed.

Stanbro said the construction industry and clean energy are two pillars that will help Honolulu climb out of the economic downturn due to the coronavirus.

Honolulu continues to have the highest per capita solar use in the nation, three times that of San Diego, he said.

Also at the press conference, Caldwell signed Bill 60 (2019) that eases the restrictions of a year-old, five-year pilot program aimed at giving owners and builders of affordable rental projects incentives of $1 million or more in exchange for committing to keep the units’ monthly rental prices within federally established affordable housing guidelines.

The original law required the affordable rent caps be in place in perpetuity but the new bill requires that they only be kept at those prices for 15 years.

Former hotel executive Mel Kaneshige, an advocate of the new bill, said many property owners were reluctant to jump into the game because of the previous language. The Department of Planning and Permitting said only two applications had been received and no approvals had been issued.

Kaneshige said at least a dozen property owners are now willing to move forward wit the new language.

The slew of incentives available to landowners and builders include greater density, taller allowable heights, less setback, no required parking, waivers from building permit application and wastewater facilities charges, no park dedication fees and a 10-year tax waiver on property taxes.

The news conference took place at Hookupu Center at 1125 Ala Moana Blvd.

Watch the news conference above.

For more background on both of these bills, see our previous coverage at https://bit.ly/2AC4kBJ.

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