Hawaii Vacation Applications Rise As Building Permits Fall

Jul 22, 2019

HILO, Hawaii — An increase in short-term vacation rental applications has been offset by a drop in building permits on Hawaii Island, officials said.

Hawaii County processed 744 short-term vacation rental applications as of last week compared to 266 at the same point in June, West Hawaii Today reported Sunday.

Records indicate only 1,600 building permits were issued between Jan. 1 and June 30 this year, a 28% decrease from the 2,059 issued during the same period last year. The figure includes building, electrical, plumbing, and demolition permits.

The change has tied up the planning and public works departments and caused frustration among members of the public, officials said.

All vacation rental owners in existence as of April 1 are required to register their property by Sept. 28 and pay a $500 fee, showing that transient accommodations taxes, general excise taxes and property taxes are paid.

Short-term vacation rentals may be established only within a dwelling that has been issued final building division approvals for building, electrical and plumbing permits, officials said.

"The building permit process was established for code compliance, not as a tool of evidence for a short-term vacation rental, thereby creating a natural disconnect," said Hilo Councilwoman Sue Lee Loy.

Lee Loy is working on legislation to streamline the building permit process, she said.

"The vacation rentals and the nonconforming use permit has compounded the building division's permit process, but this is a new piece of legislation that the building division never had a process for," Lee Loy said. "You can't really fault them for not having a process in place."