Here we go again.
On Sept. 1, the Honolulu Planning Commission held the first day of hearings for the proposal by the Department of Planning and Permitting to eliminate vacation rentals on Oahu. More than 150 people signed up to give testimony and a second day of hearings needed to be added so that all the community members could be heard.
The testimony on Sept. 1 was almost unanimous. Those that showed up spoke clearly. We don’t need new laws — we just need DPP to enforce the current one.
The proposal on the table negates years of effort that went into the current law, which was passed in 2019 but has never been enforced. In 2018 and 2019 the Honolulu City Council considered multiple versions of bills to address issues with illegal vacation rentals.
In October of 2019, after a long and contentious debate, Ordinance 19-18 was signed into law. Due to legal issues with the Ordinance, passage immediately resulted in lawsuits, which led to a negotiated settlement and court order to resolve the biggest issues.
No compromise can make everyone happy, but the end result was a balanced approach that everyone agreed to, and if it had been implemented by the city, would have eliminated illegal vacation rentals.
To be clear, Ordinance 19-18, combined with the court order, confirmed and clarified city rules regarding rentals that had been in place ever since regulations began decades ago. Those rules defined rental periods of 30 days or longer as long-term rentals, which are perfectly legal in residential areas throughout Oahu.
It also gave extremely strong enforcement tools to the city to prevent rentals of less than 30 days unless the property had a TVU license, all but 115 of which are in the Resort Zone.
Along with the new law were requirements that DPP would create administrative rules to enact portions of the law. Unfortunately, the Caldwell administration didn’t have enough time left in office to create the rules and go through the required public process, which is a necessary step to begin enforcement of the law.
In April of 2021, with a new mayor and DPP director, the first draft rules were finally created and put out for public comment. Unfortunately, shortly after the public hearing, DPP then decided that rather than completing the administrative rules required under Ordinance 19-18, they would start over with a completely new, more draconian bill.
The results of DPP’s work were released to the public on Aug. 20. The new proposed bill is a drastic departure from Ordinance 19-18 and is a clear giveaway to the hotel industry. If the hotel lobby didn’t write this bill, they certainly got their wish list fulfilled.