Officials warm up to Honolulu mayor’s rental proposal

HONOLULU — Honolulu City Council members last week gave a warmer reception to Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s vacation rental proposal to allow for more legal bed-and-breakfast establishments and transient vacation units across Oahu.

Committee members applauded the Department of Planning and Permitting for its initial steps toward a short-term rental policy after a draft presentation on Thursday.

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Caldwell announced the plan last month and officials initially expressed skepticism.

Zoning Chairwoman Kymberly Pine said last month she would not support a vacation rental policy that did not include a strict enforcement mechanism. On Thursday, Pine said she’s ready to support a policy but also stressed that she is proposing to add more inspector positions in next year’s department budget.

“I really feel that we must make a decision this year,” Pine said. “We have to just find a way to stop the madness and out-of-control parts of this situation and see how we can make this work for Hawaii.”

A proposed draft bill establishing a new policy is now before the city Planning Commission. After that panel makes its recommendations by the end of summer, the Council will begin deliberations.

Councilman Trevor Ozawa praised the department’s acting Director Kathy Sokugawa for considering different aspects of the intricate issue. A bed and breakfast enforcement bill would make it tougher for “monster” houses to operate as illegal vacation rentals since only individuals with homeowner exemptions would be eligible for either of the permits, an effort to discourage outside investors, he said.

Sokugawa said the draft proposal has three key components. Those are Establishing new “bed and breakfast home” and “transient vacation unit” property tax classifications, creating a new permitting system for new bed and breakfasts and transient vacation units and adopting a new law making it illegal to advertise either without listing a valid permit number.

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Under the current draft, there would be no limit on the number of bed and breakfast permits issued, but only a limited amount of transient vacation unit permits issued, and only outside of neighborhoods zoned for single-family residential homes.

The proposal’s new restrictions would not apply to homeowners who rent units for fewer than 30 days each year.

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