Seriously, that has to be the least controversial headline in Hawai‘i today. I mean, among residents–for tourists, this is all just Disneyland with a few palm trees and sickly sweet rum drinks, right?
For those of you who for whatever reason aren’t yet convinced that transient vacation rentals represent an alarming danger to Hawai‘i’s whole way of life for people who actually try to live here, the Hawai‘i Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice just released a 20-page report that makes it abundantly clear that vacation rental units (VRUs) are making it staggeringly difficult for people who aren’t already wealthy to live here.
“Over just the last two years, the number of VRUs has increased by 35 percent,” states the report, titled Hawai‘i Vacation Rentals: Impact on Housing & Hawai‘i’s Economy. “There are currently 23,000 VRUs being advertised around the state. Up to 93 percent of them are for entire homes, rather than the rent-out-a-room image purveyed by the VRU industry. One out of every 24 housing units in the state is a VRU, with some communities being completely overwhelmed by the industry’s growth. On Kauai one in eight homes is used as a VRU. In Lahaina, the ratio drops to one in three. The reason why investors are choosing VRUs over long-term rentals is obvious: the average VRU brings in about 3.5 times more revenue than a long-term rental unit.”
Let me repeat this: One in THREE homes in Lahaina is a vacation rental. For Maui as a whole, one in seven homes is a VRU.
Ugh. Here are a few excerpts from the report:
- “Forty-three percent of Hawai‘i households rent rather than own—the fourth highest percentage in the nation. Hawai‘i’s “housing wage” (defined as the wage needed to afford a two-bedroom unit at fair market rents) is $35.20–the highest of all the states. In comparison, the average renter’s real wage is $15.64. A minimum wage worker would need to work 152 hours a week–3.8 full-time jobs–to afford a two-bedroom unit, and 116 hours a week–2.9 full time jobs–to afford a one-bedroom unit.”
- “Nonresidents dominate Maui’s housing market. Sixty percent of condos and 52 percent of homes on Maui are sold to nonresident buyers.”
- “Sixty-six percent of nonresidents who own Maui property report renting out their units. Only 16.7 percent of these owners choose to rent to residents only. Thus, it is no surprise that Maui has the highest percentage of residential units being used as VRUs in the state.”
- “Even when new units are constructed they are often not affordable; Maui has the lowest share of affordable housing in the state. Median sales prices for homes on Maui saw the largest increase (24 percent) in the state from 2010 to 2014. Furthermore, less than a quarter of prospective Maui home buyers are able to make an adequate down payment.”
This is a disaster. In the face of these numbers, the remedies imposed on the VRU industry here seem completely inadequate:
- “Potential hosts must obtain a permit, arrange a safety inspection and provide public signage with their contact information.”
- ”Opposition from neighbors can trigger a Maui Planning Commission review of the VRU and neighborhoods have caps on the number of short term rentals that can operate.”
- ”Any dwelling approved for short-term use must have been constructed more than five years before a permit application is submitted.”
As for what we all do about this, I don’t really know, though there is an election coming up this year. You could do worse than asking each and every candidate (and especially every incumbent) how they plan to make life a little less impossible for people who want to live here.
Click here to read the report.
Photo: Nick Youngson/Creative Commons