In trying to battle Maui’s residential housing crisis, the County of Maui recently eased up on some restrictions regarding “accessory dwellings,” or as we call them, ohanas. In addition to potentially creating more long-term rental units, the new law creates opportunities for homeowners or those looking to buy or expand investment properties.

Related: Establishing Good Landlord/Tenant Relations

What has changed

Under the previous law, Property owners on Maui were not allowed to have an extra ohana structure if their property was under 7,500 feet. Even on larger lots, properties were restricted to one ohana.

Under the new law, lots under 7,500 square feet can now have a unit up to 500 square feet, while lots above 7,500 square feet can have two ohanas. The policy also expands the maximum size of the units, in addition for allowing more off-street parking. An accessory dwelling has its own kitchen, bathroom and sleeping area. It can be attached to a home or be a detached, stand-alone structure.


Here are the new size limits based on lot size:

ohana size

The cost to build an ohana, especially when attached to an existing structure, is  far below typical new construction, opening up opportunities for property owners.

For tenants, the cost of housing has risen steadily- over 45 percent since 2005- but wages have not kept up. Ohanas are one way to put additional long-term rental units into the market. Together with a crack down on illegal short-term rentals, policy experts hope more rental inventory will mean more affordable housing, according to a report to the County from the Hawaii Appleseed Center.

Another significant change is a prohibition on accessory dwellings for use as a bed and breakfast home, short-term rental home or a transient vacation rental. This will also force more units into long-term rentals.

What has not changed

The changes to accessory dwelling laws do not affect those zoned agricultural. While ag zoning allows for “ohanas,” the cottage structures on agricultural lots are considered to be “accessory farm dwellings.” The rules for “Accessory farm dwellings” have not been changed by this bill.

Also consider that parking and water could be a constraint to building out a property to its full capacity. Sufficient off-street parking will be required for an additional ohana, and there needs to be adequate water service. The number of plumbing fixtures that can be attached to a standard 5/8ths inch water meter remains unchanged. However, the County has allowed home owners to buy additional fixture points. Another option is installing a second water meter, but for many areas that is not a realistic possibility.

The law changes help homeowners with their mortgage payments, while creating new opportunities for tenants. A win-win for the Maui housing crunch.