HONOLULU (KHON2) — The Honolulu City Council will consider changes to the permitting process for home repairs. Right now, home improvement projects over $5,000 need a repair permit; but one council member said it is time to remove the permitting hurdle. 

As Honolulu city council members find ways to better streamline the permitting and approval process, Councilmember Andria Tupola said how about starting by clearing up some of the smaller repair projects that are possibly adding to the permitting backlog. 

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“This is replacing component things, right,” Tupola said. “So if you had a sink, you’re getting a new sink, you’re not changing the plumbing, you’re not changing the electrical, you’re not drilling in the walls. If you had a countertop, you’re changing the countertop, if you had vinyl flooring, you’re putting tile floor.” 

For home improvement projects that add up to at least $5,000, homeowners are required to apply for a permit. Tupola said if the work is simply replacing existing fixtures with similar ones, and not changing square footage or home structure, a permit should not be required. 

Tupola said, “We’re not changing plumbing, electrical or mechanical, we’re switching an existing item and putting in a new item. Well, with the rise of inflation, there is no way that a $5,000 cap is what it used to be back when they changed the law to accommodate for this threshold.”

The Government Relations Director for the General Contractors Association of Hawaii, Ryan Sakuda said, waiting for permits to be approved could cost homeowners money, supplies could go up in price and then companies could also charge for storing them. 

Sakuda said, “With the rising cost of construction, and with the backlog of permits at DPP. You know this is just kind of a no-brainer solution, that we think that we thank the Council for looking at it.”

The Department of Planning and Permitting Acting Director Dawn Takeuchi Apuna, in a statement, said, “We appreciate Council member Tupola’s initiatives to exempt certain types of construction from requiring building permits in an effort to streamline the permitting process.”

“The Department of Planning and Permitting is carefully evaluating each of the proposals to see if the health and safety of the public will be compromised. The requirements in the building code are there for a reason, and that is to protect the public and reduce hazards to a building’s occupants. We will have more specific comments when the bill is heard in committee,” said Apuna.

Meanwhile, Councilmember Tupola said to expect more proposals to address other department issues, including staffing levels. She has been in talks with Acting Director Takeuchi Apuna about bringing the help of relief workers to get through the pile of permit applications. 

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Tupola said, “Are we at the point where we need to hire relief workers, probably, we were probably at that point a year ago that we should have done this.” 

The initial reading for the proposal will take place at the Nov. 2 Honolulu City Council meeting.