Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell gave his State of the City address on Tuesday night on the grounds of the Neal S. Blaisdell Center.
Rail, affordable housing, and dealing with the homeless are among the priorities he continues to address. He also wants to crack down on illegal vacation rentals on Oahu.
“Related issue to affordability is the vacation rentals. Very controversial issue. We need to take back our neighborhoods. We need to address affordability because the units are coming out of rental and becoming unaffordable,” Caldwell said.
Caldwell says he plans to introduce a bill that would:
- Require registration numbers on all ads for short term rentals,
- Unhosted vacation rentals would only be allowed in non-residential areas,
- Bed and breakfasts would be allowed in all residential areas, business districts, and all of Waikiki,
- Raise property tax rates from $3.50 to $6.45 for B&Bs, and from $3.50 to $12.90 for unhosted vacation rentals,
- Increase fines from $25,000 per day to as high as $100,000 per day.
“We need to level the playing field for all segments of the visitor industry so it’s fair and everyone plays by the same rules,” Caldwell said. “For our visitor industry, we have incredible lift capacity. We don’t want to lose that, and we want to make sure we have a diversity in our visitor product. Not everyone wants to stay in a high-rise in Waikiki.”
The mayor also talked about Honolulu’s rail project, and what he’s asking from the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART).
He wants HART to make sure the first segment opens in 2020 as scheduled and that the cost doesn’t go up any more. He also wants to make sure it goes all the way to Ala Moana Center “and preserve the opportunities, the best possible opportunities to get up to UH Manoa,” Caldwell said.
Caldwell also plans to introduce a vagrancy law to hopefully stop the homeless from sleeping on the sidewalks and public walkways throughout Oahu.
Other priorities include fixing the sewers and roads, and improving the bus system and parks.
During his State of the City address, Caldwell signed Bill 58 into law, which addresses the issue of affordable housing.
After his speech, KHON2 asked some of the Honolulu City Council members for their thoughts.
“Before we add any vacation rentals to Oahu, we need to build a stronger enforcement unit. Fines are just not enough. We need to have a better enforcement team and right now, that’s what I think we need to focus on before we have any more vacation rentals,” Councilwoman Kymberly Pine said.
“You know, time and time again he mentioned in the necessity of having to work with the county, how many of these initiatives which to me was very wise, given that a lot of these initiatives have already been discussed within the body itself,” Council Chair Ernie Martin said.