A proposed crackdown on short-term vacation rentals on Oahu has been amended to address several areas of criticism from rental operators, a move that has garnered a mixed reaction from the community.
Administration of Mayor Rick Blangiardi introduced Bill 41 last year. The proposal would require reservations to be no less than 180 days, increase fees and fines, and requiring some co-owners to operate their units as hotel rooms, among other land use changes. The mayor said he intended to shut down the short-term rental business.
Brandon Elefante, chairman of the City Council’s Zoning and Planning Committee, has since proposed an amendment, drafted in part by the Planning and Permits Department, that “tries to clarify, simplify and reorganize Bill 41 and focus directly on issues related to short-term rentals,” according to the board.
“With so many moving parts in this issue, it’s important that all parts fit together cohesively,” Elefante said in a statement. “We appreciate community feedback as this process is complex and multi-faceted. We want to find a way forward that is fair and workable. »
Short-term rental operators strongly opposed Blangiardi’s proposal. Elephante’s bill, which he verbally amended again on Thursday, offered several points of compromise.
This would increase the renewal fee for non-compliant units from $600 every two years to $4,000 every two years, instead of the $5,000 originally proposed by Blangiardi. Unlike the original Bill 41, it would allow people to own more than one rental property and restore their ability to legally operate in resort neighborhoods.
IIt would also allow reservations for a minimum of 90 days, compared to 30 currently but half the time of the 180 days proposed by Blangiardi.
But at Thursday’s zoning and planning committee meeting, many short-term rental operators testified that they were still unhappy with the bill.
Margo Brower, a broker with Captain Cook Real Estate, called the legislation “a futile attempt to create a monopoly for the hospitality industry”.
“It’s a huge waste of time, and you know it will lead to years of lawsuits,” she said.
Several witnesses who operate short-term rentals have urged the city to enforce legislation passed in 2019. Order 19-18 would have authorized 1,700 short-term rentals in residential areas and imposed fines of up to $10,000 per day on violators.
It was meant to be paired with memorandums of understanding with rental platforms, in which the companies would help with the application, but these MoUs never came into full effect because the DPP never authorized these 1,700 units.
DPP director Dean Uchida said those memorandums of understanding are now “moot” and the platforms are no longer cooperating with the city.
“Once they saw the first drafts of Bill 41, they stopped talking to us,” he said.
Some renters have pointed the finger at Kauai, where illegal rentals fell from 1,500 in 2017 to less than 50 last year thanks to partnerships with rental platforms Expedia and Airbnb, such as The Garden Island reported.
Kaiula Jack, a renter, asked why Oahu couldn’t do the same.
“There are currently no significant applications,” he said.
Councilwoman Esther Kiaaina said people are making a fair point about Kauai, but noted Garden Island has a 180-day reservation rule. She suggested inviting Kauai allowing leaders of an upcoming meeting to share their experience.
Meanwhile, several tourism industry officials and local residents expressed support for the city’s efforts to curb vacation rentals.
“The profit from unregulated vacation rentals has perverted our neighborhoods and created a culture of selfish rights and a disregard for community standards,” Carl Freidl wrote in his testimony.
“The disrespect of those who mourn about the undermining of their pursuit of happiness spits on community standards of respect and aloha,” Freidl added.
Bryantt Bernardo, a longtime resident and teacher, said in written testimony that he and his wife had been saving up to buy a house for 15 years, but rising house prices were preventing their dream from being realized.
“How are we supposed to compete with the rich on the continent who aren’t looking to buy a house but pay the normal cost because they see it as an investment to get even richer?” he wrote. “This bill does not prevent anyone (local or continental) from renting their home for long-term rental to Hawaii residents. RESIDENTS should be able to find housing to rent or buy.
Kekoa McClellan, spokesperson for the American Hotel and Lodging Association, said the industry was concerned about the lack of affordable housing on the island and how that is contributing to hotels’ struggle to retain staff.
the bed and breakfast tax and transient vacation rentals will be dealt with by separate legislation, Elefante said. The Blangiardi administration originally floated the idea of raising more than $3 million in tax revenue for bed and breakfasts and transient vacation rentals and using it to enforce the new law.
After Thursday’s meeting, the bill will return to the zoning committee for further discussion, the council said in a news release.