Thursday | November 23, 2017
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Your Views for November 11

Changing the rules

Prohibiting unoccupied homes to be used for vacation rentals is not going to solve the housing problem for Hawaii County.

It can take months to resolve renter issues and in the meantime, a problem renter can live in a property and not pay rent while the property owner still must pay expenses related to the property.

In Hawaii, the property owner often is required to bring in a professional eviction officer from off-island at their own expense.

Preventing vacation rentals might result in property owners selling these homes as it is too expensive to have long-term renters. This might produce a sudden glut of homes for sale. This could reduce property values as sale prices drop and in turn reduce tax revenue for the county, while not providing any additional rental housing.

It will also reduce inventory of vacation rental options on the island, particularly problematic for East Hawaii where there are not many hotel rooms available. Visitor traffic will probably decline, impacting jobs and local revenue streams.

A solution might be a combination of improved landlord rights and tax incentives for property owners and contractors to build low-income housing.

Other possibilities are:

• Reduce property taxes on housing used for local rental property.

• Assign a county employee the task of searching the popular vacation rental websites to find local homes for rent, and compare that list to properly registered vacation rentals. Find those flying under the radar.

• Fine the violators.

• Add a rental property tax surcharge to vacation rentals.

It’s a complicated problem. Simply eliminating vacation rentals hurts the property owner and reduces visitor access to places to stay and provides little benefit to local housing problems.

Who does this plan currently benefit? It looks like the hotels.

Donald F. Jacobs

Hilo

 

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