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O'ahu North Shore: Short Term Vacation Rentals

Best of O'ahu

The state and counties are trying to resolve illegal vacation rentals in residential areas but it’s a complicated issue throughout the state. HPR’s Wayne Yoshioka reports. 

Short-term rentals on O’ahu’s North Shore have been a long-standing issue ever since the surf culture exploded in the 1960s.  But, the state’s chief information officer, Todd Nacapuy, a North Shore resident, says it’s getting worse based on an internet search of Airbnb and Vrbo sites from La’ie to Mokule’ia.

Credit Wayne Yoshioka
Todd Nacapuy, state chief information officer and North Shore resident.

“There were over a thousand Vrbo and Airbnb houses that came up on that.  Remember, the North Shore was one of the last, most affordable places to live on the island.  We just took a thousand affordable houses off the market in the last two and-a-half, three years.”

Airbnb head of policy in Hawai’I, Matt Middlebrook, says internet home-sharing companies are open to regulation and are working with the counties and state.  But, he says, vacation rentals have become a 5.1-billion dollar industry.

“In the last analysis done by the Hawai’i Tourism Authority a year ago, 15 percent of tourists interviewed said they would not have come to the Hawai’i islands at all if not for the existence of alternative accommodations.”

Midddlebrook says legislation to allow Airbnb to collect transient accommodation taxes from local hosts failed in the last 2 sessions.  But, North Shore Neighborhood Board chair, Kathleen Pahinui, says whole homes are being rented out -- not just rooms -- and collecting taxes is not the answer.

Credit Wayne Yoshioka
Kathleen Pahinui, chair, North Shore Neighborhood Board

“Nine-tenths of what you see online are illegal units.  And, if the state goes ahead and does an agreement with Airbnb and, ultimately, the other internet providers, you’re basically telling each county of the state, we don’t care about your land use laws.”

Meanwhile, the City has formed a task force to provide recommendations and City Council Zoning and Housing Committee chair, Kimberly Pine, says she wants to eliminate illegal vacation rentals.

“I’m looking through the zoning codes to see if we can allow, maybe, more condo hotels that doesn’t affect quiet residential neighborhoods to encourage those people who specifically bought vacation rentals to perhaps sell, let the house go back to a local person and make those investments in those condo hotels.”

For HPR News, I’m Wayne Yoshioka.

Wayne Yoshioka
Wayne Yoshioka is an award-winning journalist who has worked in television, print and radio in Hawaiʻi. He also has been on both sides of politics as a state departmental appointee and political/government reporter. He covered Hurricane Iwa (1982) as a TV reporter; was the State Department of Defense/Civil Defense spokesperson for Hurricane Iniki (1992); and, commanded a public affairs detachment in Afghanistan (2006). He has a master's degree in Communication from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and is a decorated combat veteran (Legion of Merit, Bronze Star and 22 other commendation/service medals). He resides in Honolulu.
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