City Council debates fate of Oahu's short term rentals
The Honolulu City Planning Committee heard seven bills that would drastically change the fees, fines and enforcement of thousands of Oahu's short rental housing units.
What to do about Oahu's short term housing rentals? That is the question facing Honolulu City Council members.
On Tuesday, the planning committee heard seven bills that would drastically change the fees, fines and inspection of those rentals.
The bills aim to set stronger regulations of the short-term rental or transient vacation units industry. Some measures come with big changes others with big fines, and altogether they had many taking sides over what would be best for neighborhoods around Oahu.
Perched along a winding street, a Kaimuki home has gorgeous views of Diamond Head and Honolulu.
It also has a place for guests, as the homeowner transformed the upstairs loft and bedroom into a short term rental for visitors.
"Here in Hawaii, is not the easiest thing to stay up on monthly bills, but AirBnB helps us do that. It is a sacrifice for us, and for the neighbors but I think it is a minimal sacrifice," said homeowner Rafe Hull.
But in other communities, some residents have had enough of short term rentals in their neighborhood. They came out to support the bills being heard by the Council which would only allow owner-occupants to rent out rooms in their homes, require one off street parking spot per rented bedroom and increase fines for illegal vacation units to $25,000 a day for each violation.
"Our residential neighborhoods should not be reduced to mere marketplaces. The demand for alternate accommodations should not outweigh local demand for housing, quality of life and cultural and social well being," said Kailua resident Marisa Nguyen.
Under the proposed bills, the county would get more money in fees and income but could limit the number of units that could be rented out.
"I believe a little more taxation could help with the property taxes, helping the government that way. But I don't believe in putting a mandate on number of transient or AirBnb units," stated Hull.
One measure would also allow neighbors to go to court to order the county to issue a violation and start enforcement.
"Honestly, live aloha. Do we really want to sue thy neighbors? Really? We are such a litigious society anyway," said Honolulu resident Geoffrey Lewis.
Many who testified felt better enforcement, whether of current laws or future ones, was needed.
"We need the counties to come up with something that has to do with enforcement," said Mufi Hannemann with the Hawaii Hotel Lodging and Tourism Association.
Bill 85 would set aside a certain amount of funding each year, and earmark money from fines toward the investigation and enforcement of the pervasive problem of illegal rentals.
The city council has already authorized funding for another 10 inspectors for the Dept. of Planning and Permitting.
Instead of having additional inspectors look at individual homes, some who testified felt enforcement of our laws would be most effective focused on-line at the advertising of short term rentals.
"We've spent months looking at research, and found that platform liability and platform transparency are the only ways to enforce vacation rental laws," said Will Caron, with Hawaii Appleseed.
All of the bills had passed a first reading.
Tuesday, council members spent the day listening to testimony and debate over what would be best for Oahu's neighborhoods.
There will be more debate over short term rentals and transient vacation units before any of the measures would be passed into law.