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Ohana Aina Association

SB2919/HB1838 Talking Points
This bill expands home rule authority for Hawaii Counties and grants counties the ability to retroactively phase out non-conforming use certificates.

Talking Points

  • On Oahu the county government attacked the vacation rental industry last year and shut down nearly half of the units.  It had no effect on housing prices and resulted in a significant increase in the number of vacant homes.  These homes will not become local housing.  Jobs will be destroyed, and these homes will sit empty 50 weeks a year.
  • Oh the Big Island the County is working to regulate hosted vacation rentals and has indicated hostility to our industry in general.  This bill gives Hawaii County the ability to phase out Vacation Rentals entirely.
  • Events like the Red Hill Crisis and Marco Polo fires displaced thousands of residents. Where will residents find temporary, furnished housing if our industry is further decimated?

  • Mid and Short-term Rentals accommodate displaced residents, newly housed residents, residents in transition, inter-island residents coming for medical treatment or family visits, traveling nurses, emergency contractors, temporary military & students, our family & friends.

Hawaii County Bill 121 Talking Points

Personal stories are important.  Tell yours.  If you depend on vacation rental income, tell them.  If you have had great experiences with guests, tell them.  If you depend on this income to make ends meet, tell them.  If you need the income to retire, tell them.

Please don't tell them how long you've lived here or how much you love Hawaii.  Focus on the issues and how they affect you.

1. Ask them why this legislation is needed.  Heather's original announcement indicted it was because of complaints, but when they were asked to verify the complaints, the County could only surface ~60.  Complaints for non-vacation rentals is far higher.  Now the bill is all about "affordable housing".  This legislation will cost hundreds of families their livelihoods, upend families, eliminate jobs and cause significant suffering.  Many families will lose their income and, therefore, in essence their housing would no longer be affordable to them.

Ask them why.  What public good is worth causing this amount of economic loss and emotional duress?

2. The County is regulating vacation rentals while simultaneously planning to make it easier to build accessory dwellings.  Heather claims she "doesn't want property owners building accessory dwellings and putting them on AirBnB".

Running a vacation rental is a huge amount of work and that many homeowners don't even want to run one.  Homeowners who do choose to build an accessory dwelling and run a vacation rental may soon switch to long term rental simply because of the inconvenience.  
Free markets work.  Period.  If we allow people to build accessory dwellings it will increase the housing stock and decrease prices.  Some will be used for vacation rentals, but many will become housing for families, staff and young adults.

Point out that this is a false choice.  There is no need to regulate one in order to do the other.  They can encourage new construction without destroying our livelihoods.

Ask what evidence they have that allowing accessory dwelling construction without regulating hosted rentals results eliminates the benefits of the newly constructed housing?

3. Hawaii County has conducted no studies, engaged in no research and retained no consultants to evaluate the impact this legislation will have.  It is like a doctor conducting major surgery without doing an X-ray first--it is malpractice. 

Ask the Council to re-start the process by retaining experts and engaging in an open public process to investigate the consequences of the bill so counselors can make good public policy.

4.  Hawaii County passed Bill 108 but didn't allow owners in agricultural zoning to obtain permits.   Homeowners were forced to sue and even after they won their lawsuit, Hawaii County still hasn't issued them the permits they are entitled to. 

This bill effectively bans vacation rentals on ag land and ends agritourism.  If you live on agricultural land or work on vacation rentals sited on agricultural land, point out how this bill will affect you and your family.

5. After Bill 108 passed Planning Director Zendo Kern's business made hundreds of thousands of dollars shepherding homeowners through the process. 

Ask what steps is Hawaii County taking to ensure that Zendo doesn't personally benefit from this bill by resigning and charging homeowners to navigate a process he initiated?  It wouldn't be criminal corruption, but it would be corruption all the same.

6. This bill requires homeowners to swear that all of the improvements on their property are properly permitted.  Though the Mayor's office claims to have improved the permitting process, Hawaii County is still dead last in 3,000+ U.S. counties when it comes to issuing permits in a timely manner.  Due to these historic challenges many homeowners have made improvements over the years without proper permits.  Some of these improvements are incompatible with modern building codes and cannot be permitted using the as-built process.

Point out that homeowners are being asked to either falsify a declaration (which is a crime) or lose their livelihoods.   

7. The primary industry on Hawaii Island is tourism.  Politicians like to wave their hands around and talk about "diversification", but when something like a space launch company wants to build a facility, they inevitably say "no".

Point out that we have a right to participate in the tourism economy as something other than wage earners for mainland-based corporations.

8. Bill 108 was passed with the idea that it would increase the supply of affordable housing.   Ask them what evidence or peer reviewed academic studies they can point to that demonstrate success.  (There are not any.)  Five years later is housing more affordable?

9.  This bill allows homeowners to operate a vacation rental on their own property but bans renters from operating a vacation rental on a property they own.  Point out that it is classist to allow families with access to capital to participate in the market when renters who lack capital cannot.

10.  In a recent meeting Heather Kimball said, "The Planning Department is here to help."--you have probably heard that before!  Worse, out of the blue, fourteen days after the Ohana Aina Association published a full-page ad in opposition to an early draft of this proposal the Planning Department retaliated against its President with an enforcement action.   

Hawaii County Planning department staff responsible for affordable housing have also been convicted of bribery and sent to Federal prison recently.  In light of this, ask what steps they've taken to discipline supervisors in the department for retaliation and failure to adequately supervise staff?  Also pose the question:  Why should we trust the Planning Department when they have already failed so significantly at managing our housing stock?

11. Nearly all of the rules surrounding parking and noise are already covered by existing Hawaii County Code.  Ask, what is the point of passing additional regulations when the Planning Department, Building Department and Police aren't enforcing the current regulations?

12. More than one half of Americans can't raise $400 for an emergency and for most families a $10,000 fine is an existential economic catastrophe.  Point out that the fines proposed in this legislation are unfair, out of proportion and demonstrate hostility to our local families.

13.  If these rules pass many homeowners will be forced to sell.  Point out that with the average home sale price approaching $1M, it is unlikely that the buyers will be  local families in need of housing.  This law will result in more local families moving to the mainland and an influx in foreign buyers.

14. If you count on this revenue to make ends meet every month, point out that vacation rentals ARE your affordable housing solution, and that Hawaii County will take it away.

15. Tell them you oppose this legislation across the board.  It is a solution in search of a problem, and will impact you, your family, your employees and your service providers.  If they want to allow more Accessory Dwellings, that is great, but the vacation rental rules are a solution in search of a problem.



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