A New Hawaiian Law Could Reduce Short-Term Rentals

One local government has already made changes as a result

It could be a little harder to find a short-term rental in Hawaii.
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The aftermath of last year’s wildfires started a conversation in Hawaii about the effect tourism has on residents’ own housing and mental health. “Because of the tourism opening up, a lot of the residents have to relocate,” one local told CBS in 2023 — and, as with other parts of the country, more strict regulation of companies like Airbnb has been on the table. Now, the state has taken the next step to potentially reducing the number of homes that could be used for short-term rentals.

As Abené Clayton explained at The Guardian, Governor Josh Green recently signed into law a piece of legislation designed to make it easier for companies to regulate short-term rentals. The law states that its purpose is to “[c]larify the counties‘ authority to regulate by zoning ordinance the time, place, manner, and duration in which uses of land and structures may take place.” In other words, one county might opt to crack down on Airbnb and Vrbo rentals, while another might not.

Hawaii’s Speaker of the House, Scott Saiki, told The Guardian that the law was inspired in part by the efforts of other state and local governments around the world. “We’re seeing in other states, and even in other countries, that governments are looking at zoning as one of the barriers to housing development,” he said.

Clayton reports that one local government moved swiftly in the wake of the law’s passage, with Maui eliminating short-term rentals in areas that are only zoned as residential. According to Clayton’s reporting, thelaw could affect close to 7,200 homes in the county.

It’s a delicate balancing act for nearly every government that’s had to weigh this decision — can you keep tourism going while also making sure that local residents have an affordable place to live? Hawaii’s county-by-county approach represents a granular way of going about it — and the results a few years down the line could be especially illuminating.


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