Hawaii Considers Phasing Out Vacation Rentals After Lahaina Wildfire Destroys Housing

The Lahaina wildfire in Maui destroyed 6,200 homes, intensifying Hawaii's housing crisis. Lawmakers now aim to phase out vacation rentals, which are blamed for driving up costs and displacing locals.

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Hawaii Considers Phasing Out Vacation Rentals After Lahaina Wildfire Destroys Housing

Hawaii Considers Phasing Out Vacation Rentals After Lahaina Wildfire Destroys Housing

The devastating Lahaina wildfire in August 2023 destroyed housing for 6,200 families on the island of Maui, intensifying Hawaii's acute housing shortage and pushing locals to leave for less expensive states. The fire has prompted state lawmakers to consider bills that would give counties the authority to phase out vacation rentals, which are seen as a major contributor to inflating housing costs and driving out residents.

Vacation rentals, a popular alternative to hotels, have been blamed for disrupting neighborhoods and contributing to the forces that push locals and Native Hawaiians to leave Hawaii. Critics argue these short-term rentals have reduced the available housing supply for residents, while supporters say they boost tourism, the state's biggest employer.

The fire exposed the enormous presence of vacation rentals in Lahaina. In the Lahaina neighborhoods spared by the fire, 52% of housing units are vacation rentals. West Maui has the highest share of vacation rentals of any region in Hawaii, with 1 in 3 housing units being a short-term rental.

Amy Chadwick, a single mother of two, lost her home in the Lahaina fire and had to move to Florida due to the excessive rental prices in Maui. The cheapest rental she could find cost $10,000 per month, which she blames in part on vacation rentals taking up the limited housing supply. The Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement estimates at least 1,500 households, or a quarter of those who lost their homes, have left Lahaina since the August wildfire.

Why this matters: The Lahaina wildfire has exposed the impact of vacation rentals on housing affordability and community displacement in Hawaii. As the state grapples with rebuilding after the devastating fire, it must also confront the broader housing crisis that is forcing many locals and Native Hawaiians to leave their home state.

Hawaii's lawmakers are now considering measures to give counties more power to regulate vacation rentals and boost the state's housing supply. However, short-term rental owners have warned of potential legal challenges, arguing that a phase-out would violate their property rights. As Hawaii navigates the aftermath of the Lahaina fire and its housing shortage, the state faces the challenge of balancing the economic benefits of tourism with the need to provide affordable housing for its residents.

Key Takeaways

  • Lahaina wildfire destroyed housing for 6,200 families, worsening Hawaii's housing crisis.
  • Vacation rentals blamed for reducing housing supply and driving out locals and Native Hawaiians.
  • 52% of housing units in Lahaina neighborhoods are vacation rentals, highest in Hawaii.
  • Displaced residents like Amy Chadwick forced to move out of state due to high rents.
  • Hawaii lawmakers consider measures to regulate vacation rentals and boost housing supply.