The availability of affordable housing for Hawaii residents is shrinking.

Not only does Hawaii build only half of the homes needed to keep up with its demand, but more than one-fourth of homes sold between 2008 and 2015 went to non-residents, according to a report released Thursday by a local nonprofit advocacy group.

Many non-residents also own vacation rental units, which further limits the pool of available housing for locals, according to the report by the Hawaii Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice.

“Speculators and investors have been eager to take advantage of the tremendously profitable vacation rental industry at the expense of our residents,” Co-Executive Director Victor Geminiani said in a press release. “We need to establish controls to protect our communities from fragmentation.”

An ad appearing on the Airbnb website advertising properties for rent in Waikiki. A recent report by a nonprofit advocacy groups, says the growing number of vacation rental is exacerbating Hawaii’s housing shortage. Screenshot

The center used data from numerous sources such as the Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism, the U.S. Census Bureau and the County of Maui.

Hawaii’s housing crisis has worsened as costs continue to increase at more than twice the rate of wages. The state’s tax system adds to this problem as it “places the second highest tax rate in the nation on people in poverty,” according to the report.

The National Low Income Housing Coalition says that 75 percent of extremely low-income households in Hawaii spend more than half of their income on housing.

Rise In Vacation Rentals

Local buyers and renters are faced with more problems as the pool for available housing shrinks as more homes are sold to non-residents, according to the report.

In 2017, the Hawaii Tourism Authority estimated that Hawaii had 23,000 vacation rental units, which represents a 35 percent increase in the last two years.

Those concerns are related to the recent rise of internet housing platforms such as Airbnb. From 2009 to 2014, the number of Airbnb entire-home bookings increased by an annual average of more than 100 percent, a study by Airbnb and Hawaii Housing says.

On Maui, the Department of Housing and Human Concerns reports that 60 percent of condominiums are sold to non-residents and almost 70 percent of those 0wners report renting out their property, according to a report by the HTA.

But only 16.7 percent of those owners choose to rent to locals only.

Update: After the story was published on Friday, Airbnb Hawaii released a statement disputing the finding of the Appleseed Center study, calling the numbers “unfounded and patently false.”

“Other recent studies have shown that Airbnb’s activity in the state has minimal impact on the availability of housing for local families,”the company said in the statement provided by spokesman Shane Peters. “What’s more, data shows that visitors using Airbnb are critical to the Hawaii economy and spent an estimated $649 million while visiting in 2016.”

Although the Appleseed Center report says Hawaii gains some financial benefit from vacation rental units such as an increase in tourism spending and tax revenues, it asserts that recent studies show those benefits are overshadowed by the  impact on housing costs.

The Appleseed Center recommends making it illegal to advertise a vacation rental unit that is not permitted, increasing county enforcement staff and allowing the community to file a complaint against non- compliant vacation rental hosts.

You can read the full report here:

Thoughts on this or any other story? Write a Letter to the Editor. Send to and put Letter in the subject line. 200 words max. You need to use your name and city and include a contact phone for verification purposes. And you can still comment on stories on our Facebook page.

About the Author