HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - As state and county leaders continue to look for ways to better monitor and regulate vacation rentals in Hawaii, a new report details just how out of control the industry is.
The report released Wednesday by the Hawaii Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice found that the number of short-term vacation rental units in Hawaii rose 35 percent over the last two years — from 17,000 units in 2015 to 23,000 in 2017.
Victor Geminiani, the center's co-executive director, said that means 1 in 24 homes in Hawaii is a vacation rental.
"That rate of expansion of vacation rentals, taking that critical affordable housing away from our residents, really shocked me, to be frank," said Geminiani.
Geminiani added that the proliferation of vacation rentals in Hawaii is making the state's housing crisis much worse.
He said of the state's 23,000 vacation rentals, 53 percent of them are owned by non-residents.
The report shows on Kauai, 1 in 8 homes is a vacation rental. And on Maui, where non-residents dominate the housing market, it's 1 in 7. (It's a staggering 1 in 3 in Lahaina.)
"On Maui, there are about 9,000 units that are being used as vacation rentals. Only about 300 are actually legal, so it just indicates the extreme that can happen on a particular island," said Geminiani.
Airbnb, meanwhile, said other studies have shown its activity in Hawaii has minimal impact on housing for local families.
The company says it is working with the state to adopt common sense regulations because "efforts to ban alternative accommodations would be devastating for the local economy, hurting small businesses and local residents."
Meanwhile, lawmakers are feeling pressure to solve the problem.
"You're seeing more and more local people who are saying enough already. Too many in my community. Too large. Too loud," said State Sen. Glenn Wakai, chair of the Senate Committee on Tourism.
A bill moving forward in the Senate would force vacation rental websites like Airbnb to turn over rental operator information and property details to the counties to verify if the rental is legal.
Kauai County's Planning Director Mike Dahilig said prior to 2010, Kauai would add about 700 owner-occupied housing units to its inventory every year. He said that number has since dropped to 100.
The counties need more resources and stricter penalties to shut down operations quicker, he added.
"We've taken it as far as we can and we're being as diligent as we can to enforce our laws, but sometimes you need bigger guns," Dahilig said.