Squeezed Housing Market

Short-term rentals are good (March 26, 2018)

A recent study about short-term rentals is making the rounds and doing a disservice to an important part of the Hawaii economy (“Report: Out-of-State Buyers, Vacation Rentals Squeeze Local Housing Market”). While the study makes false claims about short-term rentals and their impact on housing across the state, it curiously leaves out information about the value short-term rentals bring to our communities.

For starters, short-term rentals have been part of Hawaii for decades if not longer. Well before online platforms like Airbnb, people were renting out their homes and spaces to accommodate the millions of visitors that our state welcomes in the aloha spirit.

Yes, Hawaii is an expensive state, but short-term rentals have helped to ensure people can stay in their homes. And when people stay outside of the traditional tourist areas, short-term rentals are also helping small businesses stay afloat because visitors shop local and dine at the corner cafe rather than at a big chain restaurant. Short-term rentals are good for Hawaii and any policy considered should keep that in mind

— Franco Arango, Honolulu

A modest tax proposal (March 27, 2018)

Virginia Beck’s letter (“How about some tax breaks?”) is very insightful in pointing out that there should be a property tax deduction for those who rent to locals.

In terms of the housing crisis, the two important categories of homes are 1) primary residences (whether occupied by owners or renters); and 2) non-primary residences (second homes, AirBnbs and properties that are vacant). 

Based on the Appleseed report and these stats on rentals, it appears that about 100,000 residential properties in Hawaii may not be in use as a primary residence at any given time.   

When it comes to short-term rentals, consider what has been done in Vancouver, British Columbia. Flickr: JamesZ_Flickr

As Eric Pape says in this Civil Beat article, if a “targeted property tax increase did convince some owners to sell, it would mean more homes on the market. If it got owners to rent their places, that would increase the housing stock and put downward pressure on rental prices. And if it got out-of-state owners to move into their second homes in Hawaii, that would mean such people would pay income tax here in the state.”

We could call this the Empty Homes Tax as Vancouver does, though we don’t have to set it at 1 percent of assessed value. Even with a smaller percentage that only costs second-homeowners $1,000 a year on average (and is proportional to the property value), it could raise $100M for the state to use to address housing needs.  

Of course, this tax incentive would be too small to counteract the profit motive that drives the VRU market, and would not apply at all to someone who was just renting out an extra room. It should work in parallel with the type of reforms proposed by the Appleseed Center.

— Nicole Hori, Honolulu

Molokai Ranch Suitor

NextEra redux? (March 27, 2018)

Thank you Civil Beat for finally mentioning Molokai Ranch and a biofuel firm potential buyer (“New Molokai Ranch Plans Pitched To A Development-Wary Island”). This company has not held public meetings on Molokai and the website and Facebook account have no real information.

The coconut wireless is spreading the word inaccurately about the biofuel firm. Already residents are skeptical and suspicious of the firm.

NextEra discovered community meetings are preferred because residents hear the story at once and not different stories to different groups. Divide and conquer is not an effective strategy on Molokai. Companies such as Maui Electric learned to hold multiple public meetings, bulletin board posters, banners, signs and social media for young people. A hired cultural expert from Oahu does not know the politics, economy and issues on Molokai.

I watched a video community TV meeting, which had a handful of people in the audience. Once again a CEO emphasized solving the island’s problems and creating jobs, but doesn’t speak facts about the business plan, job types, and locked in contracts, etc.

We have heard this mantra before. Instead of vague promises, give us the facts, because the bottom line is the company has to be profitable.

— Cheryl Corbiell, Kaunakakai

Vote By Mail

Save time, money on election day (March 27, 2018)

Hawaii has the lowest voter turnout rate in the country, and Hawaii County has one of the lowest rates in the state. So how to get more people to vote?

Communities around country have increased voter turnout through an initiative called vote by mail (“Every Hawaii Voter Deserves To Be Heard”). Under the program a ballot is mailed to every registered voter, no request or application necessary. Voters are then able to return their ballot via mail, at a drop-off location or cast their vote in person at early voting centers or service centers on election day.

The Hawaii State Office of Elections estimates approximately $750 thousand would be saved in each election cycle by converting to voting by mail. The program would alleviate pressure on poll sites and workers, and save time on election day.

Please support democracy in Hawaii and support vote by mail.

— Justin Avery, Hilo

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