HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - After more than seven hours of passionate testimony, a Honolulu City Council committee voted to advance two proposals to increase enforcement and regulations on short-term vacation rentals.
Almost a month ago, Bill 85 and 89 were up for a final vote, but the council chose to send them back to committee for more discussion.
The latest drafts cap the number of new, permitted short-term rentals, hit violators with fines, and crack down on the advertising of illegal units.
City officials estimate there are about 800 legal vacation rentals with permits on Oahu, but as many as 10,000 units are being advertised online.
The proposal would allow up to 1,715 new permitted rentals, as long as the owners live on property.
Opponents say this would devastate the economy.
“We’ve asked for regulation and you’ve given us termination. There is no way that I believe you folks have worked for us,” said vacation rental owner Nora Adolpho.
Local vacation rental advocates say about 45,000 visitors stay at transient vacation units, or TVUs, every month on Oahu.
TVUs are entire homes that visitors can rent, and under this proposal, the thousands operating without permits would be banned.
“We have a family home that’s been in the family for four generations and I want to keep it. I want my family to be able to go out there and use it. But this (bill) says no, you can’t. What are my options? Sell to a foreigner? Those are the people that are going to buy it,” said vacation rental owner Geoffrey Lewis.
Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi, a longtime critic of vacation rentals, surprised the crowd by proposing to allow a number of TVUs to operate in all zoning districts and precincts where bed and breakfasts are permitted.
“Although I’ve been against TVUs for forever, realizing the impact on our economy and realizing the need for more revenue in future years for rail, this would allow TVUs with all the same restrictions, plus the owner of the TVU would have to have a home exception somewhere on this island,” Kobayashi said.
Supporters of cracking down on the industry say something needs to be done before the problem gets even more out of control.
“Walking away with nothing will leave us open to this industry expanding becoming financially stronger,” said Lisa Marten.
The proposal includes fines of up to $10,000 a day for recurring violators, requires advertisements to include the rental’s permit number or street address, and prohibits rentals from being within 1,000 feet of each other.
The bills passed committee unanimously and now head to the full council for a final vote.