The bill was substantially altered during conference committee drawing scrutiny.

In a rare move, the Senate and House killed a bill on the final day of the legislative session.

The draft legislation – House Bill 676 – would have empowered counties to make districting amendments for tracts of county-owned lands between 15 and 100 acres for affordable housing projects without Land Use Commission approval.

The bill caused a stir throughout the Capitol when substantial changes were made during conference committee, which would have rendered many of the bill’s inbuilt safeguards moot.

Senators and representatives raised concerns about transparency and fears that land could be converted indiscriminately.

The substance of the bill was tinkered with throughout the legislative process, as lawmakers attempted to juggle the issues of land use and affordable housing with Hawaii’s environmental, agricultural and affordable housing goals.

  • ‘Hawaii Grown’ Special Series

Even with a final push by Rep. Troy Hashimoto and Sen. Lorraine Inouye to quell concerns with a new amendment, the bill failed at the finish line when both chambers decided to recommit HB 676 to conference committee – effectively killing it off.

The lawmakers’ decision was surprising given how late in the session it was, but it was the right thing to do, according to former LUC chair Jonathan Likeke Scheuer.

Scheuer said he hoped that the conversation would now move to a “much more productive place” that considered “actual barriers” to affordable housing rather targeting the LUC’s oversight.

But supporters of the bill, at least in its original form, are conflicted about the outcome because it had changed dramatically since it was introduced.

Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, a proponent of removing regulatory barriers to housing, was buoyed by the fact the bill made it so far through the session.

The addition of several requirements for counties on redistricting land meant it was significantly watered down, according to Grassroot’s director of policy Malia Hill.

And the housing issue is far from settled.

“I’m still optimistic. We feel like there’s more interest in doing something about this,” Hill said in an interview.

“Hawaii Grown” is funded in part by grants from the Stupski Foundation, Ulupono Fund at the Hawaii Community Foundation and the Frost Family Foundation.

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