Council to consider measure aimed at regulating vacation rentals

An attempt by the County Council to regulate vacation rentals is drawing a lot of interest — and concern — from part-time residents who rent out their homes and condos to help pay the bills.

The measure, Bill 108, is set to get its first council hearing Feb. 20.


“Short-term rental of residential units, as an alternative to traditional resort and hotel accommodations, is an emerging trend in the visitor industry that continues to grow in popularity,” said North Kona Councilwoman Karen Eoff, one of two bill sponsors, in a statement.

“Bill 108 is a means to provide visitors the opportunity to stay in this form of vacation accommodation, while at the same time, preserving our residential neighborhoods and housing for the people who live and work on the island,” Eoff said.

Regulation is needed, proponents say, to keep residential neighborhoods from being overrun with vacationers clogging streets with their vehicles and disrupting the quiet character of neighborhoods.

“We believe we have come up with a fair and well-balanced program that will serve to define where this use will be allowed, how it will be regulated, as well as providing an avenue for those currently in existence to apply for a nonconforming use certificate that would allow them to continue to operate in a non-permitted district,” said the bill’s other sponsor, Kona Councilman Dru Kanuha.

The bill has a grandfather clause for existing owners, but there are still more questions than answers from individuals contacted Wednesday.

“If they denied my application for whatever reason, I would absolutely have to sell,” said Heather Bandt, who lives in her Aloha Kona home four months a year and rents it out as a vacation home the rest of the year.

Zillow shows homes for sale in the neighborhood ranging from $425,000-$684,000. Bandt said her family built their home, so it has a lot of sentimental value. But she needs to be able to pay her mortgage, property taxes and other expenses, she said.

“It would break my heart,” Bandt said. “It’s sentimental, but to a point. I’m not going down with the ship.”

Kona Realtor Gretchen Osgood said the broader picture is the impact to local real estate prices, and ultimately, the county coffers.

“(The county) will lose tax revenue since non-owner occupants currently pay more than twice as much as owner occupants, so if the owner has to sell their vacation rental since it is no longer profitable, most likely it will go to another occupant and the property tax revenue will drop … by over 50 percent to the county for that house,” Osgood said. “And since the county just raised property taxes, I don’t know how we would make the ever-rising budget work if even half of the vacation rentals owners sold their homes… it would be a huge loss in revenue.”

Osgood said the county is targeting nonresidents who don’t vote.

Planning Director Michael Yee said the bill is currently written generally, with specifics to be worked out to achieve a balance between residents and vacation rentals.

“We’re trying to address a shortage of housing, we’re trying to address integrity of neighborhoods, and trying to find that balance,” Yee said.

Yee emphasized that the bill doesn’t apply to short-term rentals of a dwelling unit that is the owner’s primary residence. It also does not include “hosted rentals,” meaning transient use of a single room or sleeping area of a residential dwelling unit or guest house where the owner or operator lives on the property.

For owners of property who currently rent out their homes for 30 days or less in the Vacation District, the General Commercial District and the Special Downtown Hilo District, registration is all that will be required. Also, those in the General Plan Resort and Resort Nodes will be required only to register, unless in a Residential District that falls within the Resort area.

The registration form, at a minimum, requires verification that state general excise tax and transient accommodations tax licenses are in effect, and certification that the required amount of parking is available.

Those currently operating outside of a permitted district — such as in a Residential, Rural or Agricultural district — will be required to get a Nonconforming Use Certificate. For that, the owner/operator must show they have been in use, declaring income on the commercial activity and in “Good Standing” prior to Jan. 20.

Yee is unsure whether grandfathered properties should retain their designation forever or whether it would change when, for example, property is sold.


“If vacation rentals are operating in places that aren’t ideal, would we want to grandfather them in indefinitely?” Yee asked.

Email Nancy Cook Lauer at

  1. Steve Dearing February 8, 2018 8:52 am Reply

    All the demo rats are capable of is destroying families, businesses and the economy. The demo rat fools voted to exterminate themselves.

    1. Hilo Jack February 8, 2018 9:52 am Reply

      To heck with any regulation of anything right $hithole Steve??

      A true head up your fat a$$ republican brain dead idiot!!

      Trump needs a blow.

  2. siphon February 8, 2018 12:37 pm Reply

    Screw airbnb, we ha/e a housing crisis here where there just isn’t enough affordable, long-term rentals for people who already li/e here.

  3. diverdave February 8, 2018 4:02 pm Reply

    One thing is for sure when this group says the word “regulate” they mean tax it.

  4. BustaBeeBee February 9, 2018 6:27 pm Reply

    Karen Eoff has a vacation rental. Wonder why she is mucking around trying to regulate them?

  5. Ryan Lee Henry March 30, 2018 1:47 pm Reply

    Bill 108 is bad news for Hawaii County and will dramatically affect tourism, jobs and real-estate values. Hotels in all of the Hawaii islands are very expensive, short term rentals make it affordable to vacation on Hawaii Island. Take them away and the tourists will go to Maui, Kauai and Oahu where they will likely still exist. No tourists, no jobs.

    Many, many home owner associations already Disallow short term rentals through their CC&R’s. Folks can simply purchase in those neighborhoods if they don’t like short term rentals. Property owners have the right to put their property to the “highest and best use” and taking away this right is illegal.

    Many retirees and others use their property part of the year and rely on income from short term rentals the rest of the year to help cover their mortgage payment and taxes. Take them away and most will have to sell. More inventory means a huge drop in real estate values for everyone which means less taxes for local government and less funding for programs.

    Bill 108 is provincial and not well thought out. Cities, towns, and counties throughout the free world allow them as they know are good for business. There will be lawsuits if this bill passes counting the county millions. People have property rights and Bill 108 is in clear violation of them.

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