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Hawaii Takes Bold Step to Combat Housing Crisis

You are currently viewing Hawaii Takes Bold Step to Combat Housing Crisis
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Airbnb listings are on the verge of being phased out in a pretty terrible housing crisis, intensified by last year’s devastating wildfires on Maui.

A significant bill aimed at transforming vacation rental regulations throughout Hawaii passed both the Senate and the House on Wednesday. It now awaits the signature of Hawaii Governor Josh Green, who has pledged to sign it. If enacted, the new law will take effect on January 1.

Senate Bill 2919 (SB2919) would give each Hawaii county the power to change zoning laws, potentially converting short-term rentals into long-term housing. Violators of the law would face a steep fine of $10,000 per day.

The bill also overturns a 1957 ordinance that displaced Native Hawaiian communities to make way for sugar plantations.

Hawaii’s housing affordability has declined sharply over the past two decades. According to the Hawaii Housing Factbook by the Economic Research Organization and the University of Hawaii, a single-family home cost four times as much in 2023 as it did in 2000. Less than one-third of households can afford the typical home, and rents continue to rise. Maui has the highest median rent in the state, with a typical apartment costing $2,500 a month.

This is higher than cities like Las Vegas, where only 3% of housing units are short-term rentals. The situation is even more severe in Maui, where vacation rentals make up 15% of the island’s housing supply.

The August wildfires, which destroyed much of Lahaina and displaced thousands of West Maui residents, have worsened the housing crisis.

Ruidas noted that around 3,000 displaced residents are still living in hotels, more than eight months after the fires. Some residents are leaving Hawaii altogether due to the lack of stable long-term housing.

By granting counties the authority to regulate and potentially phase out short-term rentals, SB2919 aims to address Hawaii’s housing crisis and provide more stable housing options for residents. This bill represents a significant step towards reshaping Hawaii’s housing landscape, especially in the wake of natural disasters and ongoing economic pressures.

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