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Honolulu City Council approves further short-term vacation rental restrictions in final vote

FILE - Kailua town on Oʻahu
Wikimedia Commons
FILE - Kailua town on Oʻahu

Honolulu officials approved Wednesday a new law that requires short-term rental owners on Oʻahu to limit tenant stays to a minimum of three months.

The measure passed by the Honolulu City Council increases the minimum amount of time a unit can be rented without a permit from 30 to 90 days, and restricts new vacation rental permits to resort-zoned areas such as Waikīkī and Ko Olina.

The bill was amended in March to prohibit on-street parking for guests in vacation rentals. The bill also reduces renewal fees for permitted rentals from $2,000 to $500.

The council voted 8-1 on Wednesday with Councilmember Andria Tupola being the only “no” vote.

The Blangiardi administration introduced Bill 41 in order to curtail the number of illegal vacation rentals in areas like Kailua that are not zoned for tourism, but have become hot spots for visitors. The measure now awaits the mayor's signature.

Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi said, "We live here, we work here, and we want to play here. And we don't want to feel subordinated that we've wholesaled Hawaiʻi for the retail business where a bunch of people don't even put money into local bank accounts."

"Anything and everything we can possibly do to direct our energies here to make the people who live here the priority — that's what I'm going to be about," Blangiardi said.

Supporters of the bill said vacation rentals disrupt residential areas and remove long-term units from the market for Hawaiʻi residents.

"It's really impacting our housing availability and housing pricing and rental prices," said Larry Bartley, executive director of Save Oʻahu Neighborhoods, which supported Bill 41. "Those houses were built, those apartments were built for people to live in permanently or rent long-term. They were never intended for vacation rentals."

Rental companies like AirBnB have urged officials to honor a current agreement that allows for a lottery to win vacation rental permits in some residential areas.

Opponents said the city already passed a measure, Ordinance 19-18, to crack down on illegal rentals several years ago, and Bill 41 would only hurt those operating legally.

Those who testified in opposition said their guests pump money into communities by visiting local restaurants, farmers markets and retail shops. Some testifiers said the 90-day minimum stay rule gives the hotel industry an unfair advantage.

A spokesperson from Expedia Group said the company is disappointed to see the council move forward on Bill 41.

“In failing to implement existing law and the corresponding agreement Expedia Group signed to assist with enforcement, Honolulu County and its residents are being left without a policy solution that will meaningfully address community concerns," said Richard de Sam Lazaro of Expedia Group in a statement.

Board member of the Oahu Short-Term Rental Alliance Matt Trevino also opposed the measure, claiming, "Bill 41 is a pernicious government overreach and civil rights matter regarding the Fifth Amendment in the U.S. Constitution."

Sophia McCullough is a digital news producer. Contact her at news@hawaiipublicradio.org.
Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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