Hawaii to ban Airbnbs, other short-term rentals

Hawai‘i Gov. Josh Green today signed into law landmark legislation (SB 2919) that grants local governments the power to regulate short-term rentals to meet the needs of their communities. This legislation will give localities the power to rein in short-term rentals that have taken over local communities and bring back affordable housing for hotel employees and other Hawai‘i residents. 

The law ensures Hawai‘i counties have the authority to tax and regulate short-term rentals by the same standards as hotels, designate them as a non-residential use for zoning purposes, or restrict their operation. This bill would allow counties to redefine zoning ordinances to convert short-term rentals into long-term housing intended for those displaced by the fires in 2023. Those wildfires killed over 100 people in Maui and displaced thousands more. According to Courthouse News, somewhere between 7,000 to 30,000 homes in Maui are mostly unoccupied short-term rentals, “with many operating illegally outside of proper zoning.”

In a statement posted on X (formerly Twitter), Gov. Green said, “It’s time we take a stand to house our people by phasing out illegal short-term rentals. Today, alongside Lahaina Strong, Hawai‘i’s Hoteliers and Hotel Labor Unions, we [are] united in support of counties’ authority to phase out short-term rentals (STRs).

“We know the majority of STRs in Hawai‘i are illegal, owned by non-residents and contribute to skyrocketing housing costs. We support Senate Bill 2919 to empower counties to regulate STRs and potentially phase them out.”

The regulation will go into effect on Jan. 1.

“For too long, illegal short-term rentals have encroached into residential neighborhoods and put home ownership out of reach for hard-working families, including the thousands of Hawai‘i residents who work in hotels. AHLA has worked hand-in-hand with community partners and the government to support commonsense regulation that ensures hotel employees and all residents can afford to live where they work, and this critical law will help achieve that outcome,” AHLA Interim President and CEO Kevin Carey said in a statement. “We thank Gov. Green, Hawai‘i legislators, and our partners at the Hawai‘i Hotel Alliance, UNITE HERE Local 5, and the International Longshore & Warehouse Union Local 142 for their leadership in passing this important law.”