The zoning rules in the city and county of Honolulu is regulated by the "Land Use Ordinance" otherwise known as the LUO. The LUO is the bible of zoning for Oahu residents. The LUO is written in English but you almost need a translator to explain the details in the LUO. The LUO is available online at www.co.honolulu.hi.us/refs/roh/21_990.pdf or you can purchase the hard copy at the City and County City Hall bookstore.
This article will deal with the question: How many homes can I build on my property?
The answer is: It depends on the zoning, the lot size, availability of utilities such as water, sewer, fire protection, topography of the land, etc.
I will deal with Residential zoned land in this article and can touch on other zoning classifications in the future. There are 5 categories in Residential zoned properties. They are R-3.5, R-5, R-7.5, R-10 and R-20. The R stands for residential and the number stands for the minimum lot size in that category. 3.5 means that the minimum lot size for R-3.5 is 3,500 square feet. R-5 for 5,000 sqaure feet, and so forth. You will find R-3.5 properties in lower Kalihi, Liliha, Palama, Kapahulu. R-5 properties are everywhere and has the most homes in this category. R-7.5 properties are in the upper areas in the valleys and mountains and R-10 and R-20 zoned lots are further up the valleys and mountains. For example, lower Manoa is R-5, R-7.5 properties are above the University of Hawaii. In Nuuanu, R-3.5 is found on Pauoa Road, R-5 is found above Pauoa Road and R-10 is found above Laimi Road in Nuuanu.
If you want to build one house, any legally subdivided lot of record must be given the right to build one house. If you have a lot that is 3,000 square feet in R-5 zoned land, the city must give you a permit to build one house even though the lot is substandard in size. You must follow the setback and height limitations to build the house. If you have a house on a substandard lot and the house burns down or is destroyed or you tear the house down, you can get a permit to build a house.
If you want to build a duplex in R-5 zoned land, you must have a minimum of 7,500 square feet to build a duplex. If you want to build 2 detached homes, you must have 10,000 square feet or double the minimum lot area of 5,000 square feet to build 2 detached homes. The 7,500 to less than 10,000 square foot lot is called "Two Family Detached Dwelling Lot" in the LUO. The homes are attached but the designation has the word detached which is very confusing. You need to take my LUO class to get a full explanation to clear up the potential confusion. On R-7.5 zoned land, you need 14,000 square feet to build a duplex and 15,000 or more to build 2 detached homes. You will notice that the miniumum land area for R-7.5 zoned land much greater compared to R-5 zoned land. You are not allowed to build duplexes on R-10 and R-20 land. You will need 20,000 square feet on R-10 land and 40,000 square feet on R-20 land to build 2 detached homes.
As you can see, the zoning rules can be complicated. You need to consult an expert who knows the Land Use Ordinance to determine what you can and cannot do with your property. I have had people call me and tell me they found a property that has a big yard to fit another house and wanted to know if they can build a second home on the lot. I always ask what is the zoning and what is the land area and is there room to build a second house. The existing house may be built right in the middle of the lot and it would be very difficult to build a second home unless you moved the existing home or tore it down and built new or built the addition that is attached to the existing home. It is highly recommended that you understand the zoning rules before you buy a house if you have plans to build a second home with a legal kitchen. Some landowners will build an addition to the house and show a bar sink on the plans and after the house is built and the final inspection is done by the city officials, they will install an illegal kitchen and use the second unit as a rental.
Next article will deal with larger parcels of land and what you can do with the land and what steps are involved in the development process.
If you have any questions on zoning issues, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or feel free to call me at 216 4999. I have free incoming calls. I try to answer any questions within the day or by the next day.
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Hi Everyone... I have a question about R-5 zoning. If a parcel is zoned r-5, does that mean that the landowner has the right to build as many single family homes on that land as is possible, where each separate house must have a minimum of 5,000sf? So, the owner of a 10,000 sf lot has the right to build two separate houses, no matter what? Are there any exceptions to this rule? Thanks for any guidance on this!