More vacation rentals in Hawaii mean needed revenue and upset neighbors

Casey Harlow Aug 11, 2021
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Houses in Oahu, Honolulu, Hawaii are seen in June 2010. Though vacation home rentals are a boost to Hawaii's economy, they've also upset some area residents. Patrick Baz/AFP via Getty Images

More vacation rentals in Hawaii mean needed revenue and upset neighbors

Casey Harlow Aug 11, 2021
Heard on:
Houses in Oahu, Honolulu, Hawaii are seen in June 2010. Though vacation home rentals are a boost to Hawaii's economy, they've also upset some area residents. Patrick Baz/AFP via Getty Images
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Despite the spread of the delta variant, tourists are flocking to vacation in Hawaii. Many are booking vacation rental properties, which are continuing to far outpace hotels when it comes to occupancy rates. The Hawaii Tourism Authority says vacation rentals have had a higher occupancy rate than hotels since October, and the trend is continuing

“I’m completely booked until April, even a little bit further out,” said Cindy Wild, a vacation rental operator on Hawaii Island. Wild said most vacation rentals on the west side of the Big Island are booked until next year.

“I think we’re at capacity, I would say. I’m sure if you look on Vrbo and Airbnb, there are not many vacancies because it’s really busy,” she said.

Vacation rentals are cheaper than hotels, and it’s easier for groups to stay together. The short-term rentals also inject money into state and local governments through taxes and fees.

The state’s tourism agency said that all added up to around $3 billion in 2018. Vacation rentals in Maui County, for example, represent 37% of the annual property tax revenue.

“This year alone, short-term rentals will supply Maui County with $142 million,” said Jen Russo, executive director of the Maui Vacation Rental Association. “Compared to other visitor-related accommodations, vacation rentals are the only segment to have increased their tax contributions.”

But not everyone is happy; some locals are upset with tourists causing disruptions in normally quiet neighborhoods.

Oʻahu resident Kathleen Pahinui used to live next to a vacation rental unit, which led her to join a community group advocating for more regulations on short-term rentals.

“Party at night, especially in the middle of the week,” Pahinui said of the short-term renters. “I’ve got to get up and go to work the next day. This is not a resort area. This is a community, and you’re not being respectful.”

Apart from disruptions at night and issues surrounding neighborhood parking, Pahinui says there are instances of out-of-state investors buying up homes to rent out to tourists — driving up real estate prices and adding to the local housing crisis.

While each county issues permits for vacation rental units, pressure is building to allow fewer of them and to push Airbnb to stop advertising unlicensed rentals.

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