The Aloha State wants to wave goodbye to Airbnb. Lawmakers in Hawaii are considering the idea of taking measures to impose heavy regulations and taxes on Airbnb rentals. Changes would be made on the state level to sharply reduce the number of units that could be rented via Airbnb and other home-sharing platforms. Hawaii wouldn’t be the first place on the globe to fight back against Airbnb. Cities around the world are limiting the number of properties that can be shared with short-term tenants as a way to fight back against noise pollution and a loss of culture in historic neighborhoods. The list of cities that currently impose tight regulations when it comes to how Airbnb can operate includes Paris, Barcelona, London, Amsterdam, New York and San Francisco.
Hawaii’s distaste for Airbnb comes at a time when the number of short-term rental properties available on the islands has reached an all-time high. In fact, the Hawaii Tourism Authority is reporting that the number of short-term rental units available in the state increased by 5,716 during the period from 2013 to 2017. The shocking piece of news that goes along with that figure is that hotels in the state added only 842 rooms during that same period. This no doubt has hotel operators worried that they are about to be left behind by vacation travelers seeking their own little slices of paradise that don’t include generic hotel rooms. Short-term rentals are growing faster than any other type of overnight accommodation in Hawaii at the moment.
What are officials saying when it comes to why they want to make it harder for Airbnb to operate in Hawaii?
Those in support of new regulations say the huge increase in short-term rentals is making it more difficult for local residents to find and keep affordable housing options. This is especially true in a place like Oahu where the expensive housing market already makes finding a place to live pretty tough for many locals. Keep in mind that Hawaii already has the highest cost of living in the United States. What’s more, many residential neighborhoods in Oahu and other places are experiencing congestion that is making life unpleasant for those who can afford to stay.
Will new regulations really make a difference for Hawaii?
It’s not like the state hasn’t already tried to curb the number of peer-to-peer rentals that are offered. A rule that was already passed limits the number of rentals that are allowed on Oahu beyond the designated resorts zones of Waikiki and Ko Olina to just 800. However, several times that many properties are being used for short-term rentals illegally at the moment. In fact, as many as one in four homes in popular spots like the North Shore are likely being used as rentals right now if you believe the estimate that’s being put out by the Hawaii Tourism Authority.
Not everyone in Hawaii wants to see Airbnb go. Many tourism companies are warning that suddenly wiping out all of the available rental homes will have a very negative impact on Hawaii’s tourism sector. Hawaii’s tourism industry is currently growing at about 7% per year. Airbnb is claiming some responsibility for that growth. Airbnb and Expedia have written letters in opposition to any new regulations. The Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association has written a letter on behalf of the 50,000 hotel rooms it represents throughout Hawaii to voice its support of new legislation that would tax and limit home-share properties. The good news for anyone making money off of Airbnb rentals in Hawaii is that it doesn’t appear that the new legislation will be passed before the current session ends. However, you can bet that another push will be made in the very near future if this one fails.
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