Hawaii Governor Wipes Away Regulatory Barriers to Housing With the Stroke of a Pen

Hawaii Gov­er­nor Josh Green ear­li­er this month issued an order intend­ed to spur hous­ing con­struc­tion in the state. The “Emer­gency Procla­ma­tion Relat­ing to Hous­ing,” as the order was titled, sus­pends state and coun­ty laws focus­ing on , his­toric preser­va­tion, and envi­ron­men­tal review.

Accord­ing to an by Stew­art Yer­ton for Hon­olu­lu Civ­il Beat, the gov­er­nor cit­ed a state law “giv­ing the gov­er­nor broad pow­er to sus­pend laws impede a response to emer­gen­cies such as nat­ur­al dis­as­ters or the coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic” to issue the exec­u­tive order. “In this case, the emer­gency is a of hous­ing and the response is to low­er reg­u­la­to­ry bar­ri­ers to homes,” reports Yer­ton.

Yer­ton adds that Gov. Green has framed hous­ing prices in the state as an exis­ten­tial threat, “which has seen an out­mi­gra­tion that aver­aged 20 peo­ple per day last year as res­i­dents unable to afford the high cost of liv­ing fled to the main­land.”

The exec­u­tive order pro­voked oppo­si­tion, how­ev­er, over con­cern about “poten­tial exploita­tion of land and envi­ron­men­tal harms with the sus­pen­sion of many reg­u­la­tions aimed at bal­anc­ing the need for devel­op­ment with pro­tect­ing nat­ur­al and cul­tur­al resources,” reports Yer­ton.

states have tak­en steps to pre­empt of land use pow­ers in the name of hous­ing afford­abil­i­ty in recent years—namely Ore­gon, Cal­i­for­nia, Mon­tana, and Vermont—this is the first time such a sweep­ing act of state pre­emp­tion has been achieved with­out approval from the state leg­is­la­ture.

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