More than 100 people testified live and in writing, mostly in opposition, to the proposed changes to short-term rentals introduced Jan. 23 during a meeting of the Hawai‘i County Council Policy Committee on Planning, Land Use and Development.
The three-bill package is aimed at registering and ensuring all of the island’s transient accommodation rentals, also called short-term rentals, are operating safely, legally and under the same standards.
The legislation seeks to preserve the character of the island’s residential and agricultural areas while reducing speculative property investment in those markets. It’s also hoped the changes would relieve some of the inflationary pressure transient accommodations have on long-term rental rates.
One of the bills would remove most restrictions for building ‘ohana dwellings.
The main objective is to find a balance between secondary owners’ investment and speculation in property and Big Island families, people who live in their primary residences, trying to make ends meet.
Short-term rental regulation was one of the top three issues for people in Hawai‘i County Council Chairwoman Heather Kimball’s district as she knocked door-to-door during her first campaign.
“It was around issues like … parking being taken up on their street by a vacation rental, noise at all hours of the day and night,” said Kimball. “I had two folks in my community who decided to move because they couldn’t tolerate the activity that was going on next door.”
The proposed new regulations were introduced by Kimball and Puna Councilwoman Ashley Kierkiewicz.
Waikōloa condo owner Connie Holz wants short-term rental regulations to be more strict.
“Please make our community safer, cleaner, quieter and community-minded by not allowing transient rentals,” wrote Holz. “There is not enough affordable housing and this is the major reason. Please look after our community and not those profiting off this.”
Trish Sierer of Kailua-Kona wrote that her home is surrounded by vacation rentals that are ruining the community: “Stay strong and continue pushing this bill through on Hawai‘i Island. It is great news!”
But the overwhelming opposition doesn’t see it that way. Some of them think the number of complaints the county receives about problems with short-term rentals isn’t enough to warrant a problem.
They are concerned about the economic impact the proposed new regulations would have if they were to become law, saying property management companies, homeowners and farmers who offer short-term rentals would face having to scale down or even stop renting altogether. That not only their income and livelihood but also those of people employed to clean and care for those rentals.
Other concerns ranged from infringing on the rights of private property owners and homeowners, higher fees and taxes and how the new rules would be enforced to needing more focus on unhosted transient accommodations often owned by entities off-island, damaging the agriculture tourism industry and putting more responsibility on the Hawai‘i County Planning Department, which can’t handle its current workload.
Several said the proposed rules would force short-term rentals out of markets where resorts do not exist, including in Puna, especially in the Volcano area.
“I am sorry that the folks in Kona and Honolulu have such big problems with the short-term vacation rentals, but this is not the case in Puna,” said Paul Crawford in written testimony. “All we have is our natural splendors and the people who want to come see them. There are no big hotels here, and nobody is going to build any in a volcanic zone.”
He added the new regulations would further harm Puna’s economy, which is still trying to recover from the 2018 Lower East Rift Zone eruption of Kīlauea volcano and the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Stop scapegoating [transient accommodation rentals] for all the bigger problems out there and do something real to increase the housing supply,” Crawford wrote.
The county’s first attempt to regulate short-term rentals was in November 2018 with the passage of Bill 108, but it only addressed unhosted rentals.
No matter on which side of the issue you stand, the goals the proposed legislation hopes to achieve have merit, but is one more important than the other?
Leave a comment here or on social media to tell us why you voted the way you did. The poll ends at midnight Feb. 2. Poll results will be published Feb. 4.