Emotional day as vacation rental bills pass

Local News

It was an emotional day at Honolulu Hale. 

Public testimony began around 10 a.m. at Honolulu Hale with hundreds of people signing up to testify either for or against Bill 85 and Bill 89.

“My son is five years old, the last time this council addressed short term rentals I was 5 years old,” said Kekoa McClellan with American Hotel and Lodging Association.

He told the City Council, “You have before you a generational opportunity to rein in once and for all illegal short term rentals in our communities,” he said. 

Those who supported the bills to be passed argued that they want their neighborhoods back. 

“Our feeling of community is being destroyed,” said one North Shore resident. “Long-term renters are replaced by a revolving door of tourists, and not that I have anything against tourists, but they really contribute nothing to the essence of my neighborhood.” 

After the Hawaii Tourism Authority reported that tourism numbers had increased but spending went down, other supporters of the bills argued that the people who stay in vacation rentals don’t contribute as much to the economy. 

“We want the high-end tourists that will go to restaurants and do tours and will create jobs with benefits and retirement,” said another supporter of the bills. “That’s what we want and going backwards and going to low-end tourist economy that’s not what Hawaii’s brand is.”

Others say they are being pushed off their island because of vacation rentals. 

“We are being displaced, and we are getting pushed out,” said a younger supporter of the bills being passed. “People assume that we’re getting inconvenienced because of vacation rentals. That is an understatement. Younger folks like me are being pushed out of this island because there is nowhere to rent.”

Bill 85 would impose strict fines on illegal rentals while Bill 89 would allow about 1,700 new permits on Oahu to become a legal vacation rental. However, the owner must live on the property and have a maximum of two bedrooms and four guests at a given time.

Those who already live on their rental property argue that more permits should be given to become legal.

“It should be hosted but please add in owner-operated [transient vacation rentals],” said one vacation rental operator. Every complaint I’ve heard this morning were about non-owner operated rentals.”

“The only people who are for proliferation for B&B’s in residential neighborhoods are the people who benefit financially from them,” said another testifier. 

“Our parks, beaches, and hiking trails are clogged, homeless encampments are everywhere, lifeguards and first responders can hardly keep up with the visitors who need to be rescued at our expense,” said another supporter of the bills. “Do the math, more visitors spending less and costing us more in government services is not a good deal for the government and not for residents.”

Mayor Kirk Caldwell issued the following statement today after the Honolulu City Council passed Bill 89 (2018), CD2 on third reading:
 
“I want to thank the City Council for their willingness to tackle the very contentious issue of short-term vacation rentals. It takes great political courage to pass a bill that will help balance the impact tourism is having on our residential neighborhoods. Subject to legal review, I will sign Bill 89 into law. It is time we take meaningful action on an issue that previous mayors and city councils have been unable or unwilling to address. The proliferation of short-term vacation rentals is an issue that has divided our community for far too long, and it’s time to bring closure and healing to our island home through fair and effective regulation. Bill 89 may not be perfect, as no legislation ever is, but it’s a first step that can be improved upon in the future.”

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