If you only do one thing this week, please sign up for and attend Hawaii County's webinar January 20 and be sure to weigh in with your opinion in the chat window.
<Too Long, Didn't Read>
Platforms Reached - If things go to plan we’ll send our first email to all hosts on the island next week.
County Publishes Sketchy Website - It turns out there were practically no complaints about vacation rentals.
Counselors Hold Webinar - Please plan on attending.
Petition to Launch - We are launching a petition drive.
County Reacting to Input - The justification for this bill is changing because of our efforts.
We have had several nice conversations with the team at VRBO over the past two weeks and, if things go as planned, they are sending an email blast on our behalf early next week. They will be sharing our video and promoting our group as much as they can within their brand guidelines.
County Publishes Sketchy Website and Confirms: There Have Been Practically No Complaints About Vacation Rentals
In response to all of the emails, phone calls, meeting requests and pushback from the community, Heather Kimball has published an unofficial Hawaii County website promoting the proposal. Well, we think it is Heather, but.....
But assuming it is legitimate…..one item that stands out is that there have been very few complaints about vacation rental operators here on the Island.
The site claims that there are 4,441 registered vacation rentals and points out that hosted rentals are not registered. That means there were 1,691,000 rental nights available at registered vacation rentals last year.
The number of complaints received? 65.
This works out to a complaint rate of %0.000062.
To address these complaints Hawaii County is demanding thousands of dollars in fees, floor plans of homes, adding additional work to an already overburdened planning department and threatening the livelihood of thousands of operators and service providers.
Counselors Holding Additional Webinar
Counselor Kimball and Kierkiewicz are holding another webinar on this issue on January 20. The format is likely to be the same as the one in November.
I encourage our members to attend, but to keep in mind that the goal of the proponents of this bill is to reduce opposition. The content and tone is likely to be conciliatory. At the end of the day the only thing that matters is the language of the bill as written. According to our analysis the current language has the potential to put a lot of families in financial trouble.
If you attend I encourage you to make your thoughts on the bill clear in the Zoom comments. These will be seen by all participants and give you the opportunity to communicate your thoughts. Be kind and be honest, but also persistent and vocal.
We plan to launch the petition this week in concert with the VRBO message. When that happens we will be asking our members to circulate it widely.
County Reacting to Community Input
All of the emails, calls, meetings and efforts are definitely paying dividends. The County has been reacting to our messaging and has already started to change the language they are using to describe the bill.
That said, the language of the bill itself does not appear to have changed significantly and ultimately that is what matters.
On her constituent communication call November 29 Heather Kimball indicated that the two drivers of this bill were complaints and affordable housing. Zendo Kern confirmed this in his communications with West Hawaii Today. Now that it is clear that there were practically no complaints the justification has changed. In the unofficial website Kimball cites two reasons:
“First, the bill is meant to ensure that all TAR operations in Hawaii County are legal, safe,and followingstandards(sic) of operation so that they are not disruptive to the neighborhoods where they are located.”
Lets unpack that.
“Legal” - Hosted TARs are already legal. They would only become illegal if this bill passes and people can’t or won’t register.
“Safe” - The County already has a byzantine permitting and planning process that ensures construction is safe and legal.
“Following Standards of Operation” - Almost all vacation rentals use technology platforms with well developed standards for safety, financial security and physical security. These platforms have a reputation system for customer feedback and dedicated teams who address conflicts and violations of standards. Is Hawaii County saying that they can do it better?
“So that they are not disruptive of neighborhoods” - Hawaii County received 65 complaints for over 1,691,000 rental nights. That is a complaint rate of %0.000062. Evidence shows that TARs are not disruptive in any meaningful way.
“The second reason for the bill is the due to the impact that TARs have on the housing market. TARs reduce the inventory of housing available for residents and increase area housing costs and rents. Hawaii County has a significant problem with the availability of housing and this bill is intended to reduce speculation by outside investors on our island.”
“TARs reduce the inventory of housing available for residents and increase area housing costs and rents.” - The county has admitted that they have commissioned no studies, conducted no research and developed no data on the impact of hosted TARs on affordable housing.
The hosted TARs that this bill targets are operated by owners or renters who live on the property. They use the vacation rental income to pay their rent and their mortgage.
7,500 families count on this income to make ends meet every month. Making it harder for these kama aina to pay their bills is going to result in people losing their housing.
This bill will reduce affordable housing.
“Hawaii County has a significant problem with the availability of housing” - One of Hawaii County’s key affordable housing employees embezzled $11,000,000 of affordable housing credits for his own personal gain. Perhaps Hawaii County should address this issue internally before disrupting the livelihood of thousands of Hawaii families.
“this bill is intended to reduce speculation by outside investors on our island.” - Once again Kimball conflates absentee owned rentals ( which are ALREADY regulated ) with hosted rentals - local families who rent a room or an ohana to visitors. This bill is not about outside investors.
In fact, this bill may increase the number of outside investor owned properties. Families forced to sell their property because of this bill are very likely to find buyers on the mainland or internationally.