Oahu’s New Short-Term Rental Ban Uses ‘Sledgehammer,’ Not Data

by Mark Coleman

Will Oahu’s new ban on short-term rentals affect you?

It will if you have been renting out a room to help pay your mortgage, or you are a contractor or retailer whose livelihood has relied on servicing such rentals or the people who rent them.

That’s the view of Dawn Borjesson, chair of the Friends of Kuilima, a community group on Oahu’s North Shore. Borjesson was interviewed about “Oahu’s problematic short-term rental ban” by Keli‘i Akina, president and CEO of Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, on the May 23 episode of “Hawaii Together” on ThinkTech Hawaii.

Akina said advocates of the ban claim it will protect Oahu’s neighborhoods and increase housing for locals, but others have grave concerns. The new ordinance essentially bans short-term rentals across most of Oahu by lengthening the short-term vacation rental period to at least 90 days.

Speaking via Zoom from Juno, Alaska, Borjesson said the worst part of Bill 41 is that it was adopted without any data showing that it is needed. Until that data is obtained, she said, “we’re just kind of demonizing folks that rent out properties that are perceived as just vacation [properties].”

Akina asked: “So if it’s not data and research that is driving the decision that was made by the Honolulu County Council, what is driving that decision?”

Borjesson responded: “I would say the hotel industry. They have been trying for a long time to eliminate competition.”

She said the travel industry has “moved more toward people wanting to be able to stay in homes versus staying in a hotel,” and though “hotels are nice, … you don’t have the benefits of a kitchen, an area to lounge in necessarily, unless you really can afford it. And most families can’t. … The hotel experience is so costly. It’s cost-prohibitive.”

She said along Oahu’s North Shore in particular, others who use short-term rentals include professional surfers who participate in surfing competitions in the area. Many of them have entourages that include supporters, trainers and even medical personnel.

“A lot of these folks need to be able to rent a property that’s closer to the shore, because they have [to train], they have to get ready for the competition.”

Borjesson said Friends of Kuilima is “very much for affordable housing across the island. But taking a sledgehammer to the approach doesn’t seem to be the right thing to do.”

To watch the entire interview, visit grassrootinstitute.org/2022/05/oahus-problematic-short-term-rental-ban/.

MARK COLEMAN is managing editor and communications director for the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii. Jonathan Helton’s article can be viewed by visiting the institute’s website at grassrootinstitute.org.

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