Packed Room As City Council Takes Up Short-Term Rental Regulations

Jun 7, 2019

Members of the public fill the City Council's committee meeting room to hear discussion on proposals regulating short-term vacation rentals.
Credit Ryan Finnerty / HPR

More than 100 people packed into the committee room at Honolulu Hale to hear debate and give testimony on proposals to regulate short term rentals.

Update: The Zoning, Planning, and Hosuing Committee passed CD-2 versions of Bills 85 and 89 written by Councilmemnbers Ron Menor and Joey Manahan. The version sponsored by Councilmember Ann Kobayashi was not advanced. 


 

Committee meetings, which are used to refine legislative proposals before going to the full City Council, typically are usually sparsely attended. Not today.

 

Bills 85 and 89, which aim to restrict the proliferation of vacation rentals, were sent back to committee for revisions after overwhelming opposition was expressed at the May 8th meeting of the full City Council.

 

Council members spent the ensuing weeks refining the proposals to address issues identified by the public.

 

One of the major points of discussion was how the two bills, which at face value could result in up to a 90% reduction in short-term rentals on the market, would impact Oahu’s economy.

Audience members express their opposition to Airbnb during a City Council committee meeting Friday.
Credit Ryan Finnerty / HPR

In acknowledgement of the concerns, Councilmember Ann Kobayashi, long an opponent of short-term rentals, put forth an amendment that would loosen the proposed limit on the rentals.

Her version of Bill 89 would allow around 3,700 short term rentals island-wide, including whole-property rentals known as Temporary Vacation Units. Propsosals from other councilmembers would allow anywhere from none to 1,500.

Kobayashi cited the future need for additional revenue to fund the construction of Honolulu’s ongoing rail transit project.

The Kobayashi proposal was a move toward compromise in a debate which has been characterized by absolute positions on both sides.

The bills that were sent back for revisions in May were viewed as overly restrictive by proponents of short term rentals, while opponents of the industry have long opposed any move towards legitimizing the practice, which in most cases is currently illegal.

Only around 800 permits have currently been issued to allow rentals of less than 30 days outside resort areas.

Other proposals before the council would enact steep fines for violators, require booking platforms like Airbnb and HomeAway to comply with city laws, and institute minimum spacing requirements between rental units.

 

This is a developing story and will be updated.