Honolulu mayor’s vacation rental plan receives mixed reviews

HONOLULU — Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s plan to legalize more vacation rentals but under stricter regulations has had a mixed reception.

Those who are troubled by the growing proliferation of vacation rentals said Caldwell’s plan allows too many new units without inserting enough safeguards to stem abuses, the Star-Advertiser reported Wednesday.

The city has long wrestled with the issue of short-term vacation rentals, both transient vacation units and bed-and-breakfast establishments. The city stopped issuing permits for both in 1989-90, except in hotel-resort zones — but that hasn’t stopped vacation rentals from operating, the Star-Advertiser reported.

Council Zoning Chairwoman Kymberly Pine said she won’t support any bill allowing more short-term rentals unless she’s assured that the Department of Planning and Permitting will put together a strong enforcement team that will track down and fine illegal rentals.

“So far, the (Caldwell) administration has not proven to me that they can even enforce the illegal activity currently going on on Oahu, so they will need to demonstrate they will have a new program to increase enforcement,” Pine said. “Otherwise, every idea presented to the City Council is useless.”

Pine, who heads the committee that will consider any vacation rental bills, said she is proposing funding in next year’s operating budget for such a team.

The proposal must go to the city Planning Commission for its recommendations before moving to the Council.

Matt Middlebrook, public policy manager for Airbnb, said in a statement he had yet to see the details of Caldwell’s proposal, but warned that passing legislation that would place burdens on operators could have dire consequences.

“We are concerned about restrictive rules on transient vacation units, which would be catastrophic to the local economy, devastating businesses, local residents and hosts who rely on the income,” Middlebrook said.

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