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After hours of debate, Council approves ban on short-term vacation rentals outside of resort areas

After hours of testimony and debate, the City Council on Wednesday approved a measure aimed at banning short-term vacation rentals outside of resort areas.
Published: Apr. 13, 2022 at 5:42 PM HST|Updated: Apr. 13, 2022 at 8:58 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - After hours of testimony and debate, the City Council on Wednesday approved a measure aimed at banning short-term vacation rentals outside of resort areas.

Bill 41 passed with a vote of 8-to-1. Councilmember Andria Tupola was the lone “no” vote.

More than 100 people signed up to testify on the hotly-debated proposal, which now heads to the mayor’s desk.

The bill would ban any rentals in residential areas for fewer than 90 days. Right now, it’s at 30 days.

Short-term rentals would be OK in resort districts and nearby locations in Waikiki, near Ko Olina, and Turtle Bay. The measure also seeks to increase enforcement on illegal operators.

The hotel industry is in strong support of the proposal.

“It’s not just about the hotels,” said Mufi Hannemann, president and CEO of the Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association. “We’re not against outlying short-term rentals. But the fact of the matter is some of them are not complying with the rules.”

Some say rentals have taken housing opportunities and peace away from locals.

“We allowed the short-term vacation rentals, the Airbnb’s, to just keep growing,” said Jerry Agrusa, a UH travel professor who has written multiple papers on Bill 41. “We already have a housing shortage,”

But residents and operators gave their thoughts on both sides.

“Any economic benefits of opening up our residential areas to tourism are far outweighed by the negative impacts on our neighborhoods and local residents,” said Thomas Cestare, of Lanikai.

Gloria Wong testified against the measure, saying it favors hotels. She’s also a resident and teacher.

“Be fair to us owners as well,” Wong said. “We just choose to have our own little business, make a little money.”

With the 90-day minimum, prospective renters are worried about affordable trips to Hawaii.

The World Surf League doesn’t know where they’ll put surfers and judges.

“We need international judges around the world,” said Robin Erb, regional director for WSL. “So 90 days is simply unworkable for our surfers and our workers.”

Councilmember Tupola was the only one with a no. She expressed concerns that enforcement of illegal rentals has failed before and is worried enforcement will fail once again.

“I hope that as a body we continue to decide how many laws we want to put on the books that don’t have enforcement,” said Tupola. “All of us want to see action. We want to see changes. And that comes when we get serious about enforcing the current laws on the books.”

Council Chair Tommy Waters voted in favor of the bill.

“I understand that it’s expensive to live in Hawaii. And when you rent out a room it helps pay a mortgage and the bills,” said Waters.

“But I see tourists in our local neighborhoods. And people are upset.”

It’s not clear whether Mayor Rick Blangiardi will sign the bill, but his administration did introduce the original version of the bill.

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