By City Council Member Tom Berg – The demand for a more affordable solution to accommodate Workforce Housing has been identified as a key factor to farmers’ needs. The American Planning Association, Hawaii State Department of Agriculture, Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation, and supporting documents for Important Agricultural Lands on Oahu make assertions that for a farmer, supplying housing for its workers is paramount to achieving a successful operation.
The Honolulu City Council has a solution in mind to offer farmers on the Leeward Coast the opportunity to place as many as five retrofitted shipping containers on their land to serve as workforce housing. Resolution 12-74 CD1, introduced by Councilmember Tom Berg (Ewa Beach, Kapolei, Makakilo, Waianae Coast) passed the Zoning & Planning Committee last month and will be up for adoption this Wednesday, September 12 before the full council.<
Kaiawe Makanani, a Nanakuli-Maili Neighborhood Board #36 member who chairs the board’s Agriculture & Farming Committee and also works on a pikake farm stated that with rents on Oahu averaging $1,600 a month, finding a way to keep employees on the job long-term is a challenge. “A lot of resources goes into training new employees to properly care for our shrubs, but with the availability of inventory for affordable rental property almost non-existent, workers often look to greener pastures leaving most farmers scrambling for workers on a perpetual basis.”
Councilmember Berg stated that the five-year pilot program does more than just house workers on the farm, but also offers the landowner with added security to deter illegal dumping, theft and vandalism plaguing our rural areas. “Pre-fabricated, modular homes, and even shipping containers that are retrofitted as dwelling units, can cost less than a car payment to rent and provide the farmer with the luxury of placing the structure anywhere on the property where desired. The ability to situate a temporary structure that is completely ‘off-the-grid’ and not have any ties to any utility company is more than doable, but being done all over the world. Sewer hook-up, water and electricity rates are killing the farmers’ potential to expand and sustain their operations. My resolution lets the farmer erect temporary dwelling units on their property and be afforded a waiver to mandatory sewer and water requisites,” added Berg.
The resolution if passed will be applicable only to the Leeward Coast area of Oahu. Berg concluded with the statement, “The last thing we want to see is farmland turned into a mobile home park, so that is why the structures can only be placed on the property for a five-year trial period and a limit of five structures, or 1,600 square feet maximum in total be deployed. Furthermore, occupants are to be employed on the very farm where the structures are situated and meet the definition of workforce housing.”
Agenda for September 12 Meeting