Clash Over Hawaii Vacation Rentals Includes Tourists, Residents, Special Interests

Clash Over Hawaii Vacation Rentals Includes Tourists, Residents, Special Interests

A frequent commenter, David B., alerted us to the hearing that took place Friday on Hawaii’s Senate Bill 2919. “I just received an “alarmed” email from our Vacation Rental Manager. They are asking their owners to testify at a hearing…which, if passed, would expand the zoning powers of counties to amortize or phase out transient accommodations in residential and agricultural zones. If you think Hawaii vacations are expensive now, watch what happens if this passes.”

Committee chair, Rep. Luke Evslin from Kauai, said that the goal of the pending legislation isn’t to phase out Hawaii vacation rentals per se. Instead, it removes any obstacles to the counties doing so themselves by allowing them to change zoning ordinances. This could help return prior vacation rentals to long-term housing.

Data is flying fast and furious about who owns and dominates the Hawaii vacation rental sector. Governor Green last said, “non-state residents own 52% of all short-term rentals in Hawaii, and 27% of short-term rental owners own 20 or more units.” Some further clarification on the data is needed.

Representatives from the Hawaii Mid and Short-Term Rental Alliance (HIMAST) were also present at Friday’s hearing. That group now purports to represent over 35,000 legal vacation rentals throughout Hawaii. “HIMAST advocates for the legal mid and short-term rental industry in Hawaii, promoting economic viability for Hawaii residents. We are part of the housing solution, providing temporary and transitional housing for residents and visitors, locally-owned rental accommodations that generate employment and resident income, and substantial tax revenue for the state and counties.”

Greatly intensified by the Maui wildfires, the Hawaii legislature is making bold moves to try and regulate short-term vacation rentals. The current direction is providing counties, rather than the state, the power to phase out such rentals entirely. This reflects outspoken opposition now primarily related to housing shortages on Maui and the other islands, and the impact that vacation rentals have on local communities.

Critics argue that any proposed ban would be met with unintended consequences and fierce legal challenges. Nonetheless, supporters say prioritizing affordable housing over Hawaii tourism outweighs all possible concerns. The debate’s outcome remains uncertain, while the issue has sparked nationwide attention regarding the future of Hawaii tourism as we know it today.

Despite opposition, most Hawaii lawmakers appear ready to curb Hawaii vacation rentals.

Other bills are set to work in concert with SB2919, and will help change zoning regulations and provide remuneration for those converting short-term rentals to long-term.

Hotly contested comments continue to arrive.

Mainland and foreign-owned hotel-based interference. Countless comments have spoken about the legislature and governor aligning with well-funded mainland-owned hotels and their special lobbying interests. Last year, nearly $6 million was spent on lobbying during the Hawaii legislative session according to the state’s ethics commission.

Some have said that vacation rentals benefit local residents more, although conflicting data also shows that a large percentage of vacation rentals are not locally owned.

Infringement on property rights. Others have mentioned that such legislation is unfair or illegal and will eventually come to penalize those who both provide and rent short-term Hawaii vacation rentals. Many have said this will result in a long-term court battle that will benefit no one.

Short-term rentals exacerbating the Hawaii housing crisis. It is widely stated that Hawaii vacation rentals have made the housing problems Hawaii faces far worse by depleting needed housing stock for vacationers.

Investor exploitation in Hawaii vacation rentals: Many hold that out-of-state investors exploit the Hawaii housing shortage by owning multiple legal short-term rentals.

Undue economic impact: Will banning short-term rentals significantly hinder economic recovery in Hawaii? In addition, many have said that the burden is falling unfairly on a single group of tax-paying properties.

Visitor preference for vacation rentals.

Visitors, in many cases, prefer short-term rentals in Hawaii over hotels. We’ve seen that in hundreds of not thousands of comments stating that if there are no longer vacation rentals, you won’t be returning to Hawaii.

Some studies have indicated that a reduction in vacation rentals will in fact decrease the number of Hawaii visitors. And perhaps that is well aligned with Hawaii’s goals. When many travel to Hawaii, they like the idea of a vacation rental with a kitchen, living room, and separate bedroom. It provides the feeling of having a more local experience.

If you typically choose Hawaii vacation rentals, would you be more or less inclined to visit Hawaii if that type of accommodation becomes limited or too expensive?


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188 thoughts on “Clash Over Hawaii Vacation Rentals Includes Tourists, Residents, Special Interests”

  1. Tourism will continue to decline due to foolish law that will damage proper values. Ex – Kamaaina here that watches the “ old school” regimes fail to look forward and cling 1950s mentality

  2. STRs make up apprx 5% of housing Green and corp hotel lip service about LTHousing is BS. STR condos will not revert to LTR and are not going away but will be recategorized as Extended Stay. Green and his rich white corp hotel buds have set in motion a panic STR condo sell off. They will swoop in acquire at what they anticipate less than half market incl. bk foreclosures. The financil fortunate owners left over will be tax req. to book/manage through(in order to STR)guess who. Advice buy lots of Marriot Intl., Pritzker, Hilton WW stock cant beat em get rich off em. Us Vac. Maui21yr owner8yr condo off beach. Maui Strong being played or $$. Mahalo nui loa HI!

  3. I’m surprised that this hasn’t been mentioned before. For those folks who need multiple bedrooms and a kitchen and want to stay for longer periods of time, perhaps the answer is a timeshare? Especially if you come “every year” as some posters here have said they do. I know that they have their own issues, but as an alternative to an STVR it seems to me like it might be workable. They resemble the amenities of a condo STVR at least.

    1. There’s all kinds of people in this beautiful world.

      Some only stay at hotels. Others at bed and breakfast’s. Some do timeshares. And others love staying in a home.

      There’s room for it all.

      Variety is part of the thrill of life.

  4. Dear Kaliko,

    You don’t know me, but I care about other people. We are all connected, so it’s important to step in kindness with one another.

    I would like to point something out in the bill being pushed through legislation to ban short term rentals.

    According the bill, short term rentals take up less than 5% of the housing on the islands.

    To me, the answer to the housing problem is to build affordable housing.

    If you look to progressive Vienna, they have “social housing.” You pay a percentage of your income in rent. This makes it such that all economic levels live in the same location, with the same amenities. It’s nothing like the projects that are abysmal on the mainland.

    With love, G

  5. Hawaii needs to give the tourists the accomodations they desire. Let the market decide. The more tourists the more revenue the Hawaiian economy makes. Everyone wins, government makes more revenue, Hawaiians have more jobs, restaurants serve more meals, retail shops make more money. It’s a win-win! Short term vacation rentals in non vacation zones need to have on site care takers which would provide more jobs and housing. Having a care taker on site makes the short term rental a better neighbor. All short term rentals need to pay their income taxes to both the state and counties. With the extra income, government can improve infrastructure (cesspool vs city sewer). Maybe government can build affordable housing for locals. Just some ideas!

    1. The problem is that the “market” creates situations like too many tourists that cause destruction of the very reason people come to Hawaii. In the case of STVRs that are outside the “tourist areas” they compete with locals who need housing and often create problems in the neighborhood. Addressing some of these issues means some kind of controls need to be put into place. Unfettered capitalism creates chaos, as is the case with STVRs in Hawaii. If you need a place with multiple bedrooms and a kitchen then that’s what timeshares are good for.

    2. “Hawaii needs to give the tourists the accommodations they desire. Let the market decide. ”

      No we don’t! You go ahead and have some of Your house be a crash pad for tourists. But don’t tell your neighbors. They might have a few thoughts on it.

  6. I rent a condo on Kauai for three months. The prices already increase each year and are escalating even more post-Covid. If short term rentals are so limited that they become prohibitively expensive (and they’re getting close to that now, for me), I won’t be able to return to Hawaii.

  7. Hotels are too expensive, don’t allow freedom of locally bought foods to cook/ prepare yourself and are helping Hawaiian economy.
    Will not go back to hotels so no more Hawaiian vacation.
    Seems this is beneficial to hotel investments that are not Hawaii friendly!?


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