The unprecedented Council debate on the budget clearly demonstrates the change in economics affecting Big Island residents. Many of us believe that this calls for some changes in our economic model and our current laws affecting building. For the last year members of the Hawaii Sustainable Community Alliance (www. hawaiisustainablecommunity.org) have been researching and developing an alternative building code to be presented to the County Council in the very near future.
The Sustainable Habitat Building Code is seen as an addition and alternative to the present Universal Building Code and not a replacement. It would allow many of the thousands of residents presently living illegally in unpermitted dwellings to come into compliance as well as providing a legal option for future home owners looking to build more affordably or sustainably.
The model followed by our proposed legislation has been adopted successfully in at least six California Counties for over 20 years and has been their response to the limitations of the Universal Building Code.
What aligns all the supporters of an alternative building code is that it promotes the American Dream of homeownership without the banks holding title and the threat of foreclosure. The Sustainable Habitat Building Code will legalize the traditional homesteaders approach to building where it happens incrementally as owners can afford additions and improvements plus it will permit occupancy during the building process. It helps avoid the need for mortgages and the crippling rental senario which so often prevents the accumulation of funds for building. The new legislation will promote more affordable housing by allowing for the use of alternative local building materials (including recycled materials) and eliminating the UBC requirement for costly licensed contractors.
We have a draft of our proposal being presented individually to Council Members as well as members of the administration and we intend to submit our plan as soon as the budget dust settles. In the meantime we are looking to get the word out to the public to get more input and support for this long overdue revision to the building options available to residents.
I hope that you can help us create more truly affordable home ownership on Hawaii Island.
I’m totally for this kind of alternative building code, yes, and I think that relaxed codes are appropriate for our tropical climate and economic depression. But I’m afraid that ship already sailed back in 2007, when the State Legislature took this kind of flexibility creativity away from the County.
According to legal advisors to the County Council deliberations in Hilo last week, which again resulted in deferment of any action, the County cannot adopt any amendments which would eliminate or reduce any requirements of the 2006 IBC code adopted by the state. The only amendments the county is allowed to make(the legal folks said)are ones that are stricter than code.