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Honolulu deals with Airbnb, Expedia will help ID illegal rentals

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Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell signed a bill on Tuesday that will enact some of the strictest vacation rental laws Hawaii has seen in more than 40 years.

Time Travel & Leisure

HONOLULU — Airbnb and Expedia Group have agreed to provide Honolulu with information that will help the city enforce its laws governing vacation rentals, the companies and the city said Tuesday.

Hosts will have to provide the “tax map key” property identification number issued by the state of Hawaii when they list a rental on the vacation rental websites. The hosts will also have to provide a Transient Accommodations Tax identification number for the property.

The public will be able to see these numbers on the listings.

Listings lacking these numbers numbers will be removed from the websites.

Honolulu authorities have long struggled to enforce the city’s vacation rental laws, as it’s difficult to prove in court when someone is illegally renting a property on a short-term basis.

This summer: Hawaii struggles to enforce vacation rental quarantines

Honolulu has about 800 legal vacation rental and bed-and-breakfast units. But studies have estimated the city has had about 10 times as many illegal ones.

“We know there are bad actors out there, and this will help us crack down on them. While this is not a panacea, it’s a step forward,” Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said in a statement.

Airbnb and Expedia signed separate agreements with Kauai County earlier this year.

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Airbnb and Expedia agree to help Honolulu crack down on illegal vacation rentals

The city has reached an agreement with Airbnb and Expedia Group on the enforcement of short-term vacation rentals, Mayor Kirk Caldwell and the two online platform giants announced today.

The agreement is expected to make it easier for the city to track and regulate vacation rentals and ensure operators are properly taxed.

“We’re going to be able to address problems that have never addressed before,” Caldwell said at a video press conference this afternoon.

Under the agreement, Airbnb and VRBO, an Expedia subsidiary, will provide the city Department of Planning and Permitting with monthly reports detailing information about the operators advertising on their platforms, allowing the agency to more easily verify if a rental is permitted.

The information to be disclosed would include Tax Map Key and Transient Accommodations Tax numbers for each property. If found to be unpermitted, the two companies have agreed to take the ads down.Agreeing to allow ads to be removed “permanently” is a feature unique to Oahu, Caldwell said. In other jurisdictions, “you have to go back and keep scrubbing the lists every so often,” he said.

Kauai County reached a similar agreement with the two companies during the summer. That agreement, however, does not include a permanent removal provision.

Deputy Corporation Counsel Brad Saito, the city’s lead attorney on the vacation rentals issue, said the companies have also agreed to provide education to their advertisers “about what is and what is not allowed in the City and County of Honolulu.”

Max Sword, Expedia’s Hawaii policy advisor, said the agreement “will help the responsible, short-term rental owners and the City and County of Honolulu.” Short-term rentals work well during the pandemic because it allows for better social distancing, he said.

The agreement is beneficial to both operators, who want fair and clearly defined rules, as well as “neighborhoods around Oahu who want to see clear guardrails around the use of vacation rentals in their community,” said Matt Middlebrook, Airbnb Hawaii policy manager.

After years of debate, the Honolulu City Council in 2018 adopted a new ordinance cracking down on illegal vacation rentals.

Under the plan, the city was supposed to allow up to 1,700 new permits for bed and breakfast operations across the island starting Oct 1. But in September, the Council adopted Bill 50 pushing the start-up date to no earlier than April 30.

Saito said DPP is in the process of drafting rules which it hopes to take out for public hearing during the first quarter of next year.

Since the new law has been in place, the city has issued 181 violation notices, Saito said.

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City teams up with Airbnb, Vrbo to crack down on illegal vacation rentals

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) – The city is teaming up with Airbnb and Expedia, the parent company of Vrbo, to crack down on illegal vacation rentals on Oahu.



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A new memorandum of agreement is aimed at tracking and regulating Oahu vacation rentals, including by ensuring legal rentals are properly taxed and illegal rentals are shut down.

“We know there are bad actors out there, and this will help us crack down on them. While this is not a panacea, it’s a step forward,” said Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell.

“For our residents who depend on this income, we want to provide an avenue for people to list their rentals in a legal, and transparent manner.”

Under the MOU, the two platforms will provide detailed information on listings so the city can ensure they’re legal. There will also be changes made to listings to make sure they’re properly taxed.

The changes come as Oahu is slowly beginning to see tourism ramp up with the state’s pre-travel testing program, which allows incoming travelers who test negative for COVID-19 to skip quarantine.

Vacation rentals were not allowed to operate on Oahu until the island moved into Tier 2 of its reopening strategy. In October, Oahu vacation rentals had an occupancy rate of 27%.

Copyright 2020 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.

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Illegal Hotel on Upper West Side Gets New Life as Senior Housing

(Bloomberg) — A former illegal hotel on Manhattan’s Upper West Side will begin a gut renovation this week, transforming into something quite different than the luxury condos that are a staple in the well-heeled neighborhood.

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The Park 79, a seven-story building down the block from the Museum of Natural History, will be remade into housing for senior citizens with limited incomes. The developers have signed an agreement with the city’s housing department to keep the apartments — in an area where new condos sell at a median of $3.39 million — affordable for at least the next 60 years.

“Opportunities like this rarely, if ever, come around,” said Will Blodgett, founding partner of Fairstead, a Manhattan-based residential investor that owns 12,000 units nationwide.

Located at 117 W. 79th St., the building was once a single-room occupancy residence that was shut down by the city after the previous owners illegally operated it as a tourist hotel. Fairstead acquired the property in 2016 for $22.5 million.

Now, the builder has secured the financing to move forward with the plan, closing on a $51 million construction loan from Merchants Capital and a $28.4 million commitment from Freddie Mac.

Housing Lottery

Residents for the 77 units will be selected through a city housing lottery, with the apartments renting for $550 to $700 a month. The building will feature spaces for socializing and Zumba classes, according to David Gillcrist, executive director of Project FIND, an operator of senior housing that is a partner on the development.

The project is an unusual turn for a neighborhood where development sites get snapped up at top dollar by builders aiming for the wealthiest buyers. Even senior housing in the area has hewed to that model: developers Hines and Welltower Inc. are planning a luxury assisted-living project on West 85th Street, similar to one they’re opening next month on Manhattan’s East Side, where monthly rents could top $20,000.

“Many people can’t afford the $20,000 a month,” Blodgett said. “I would argue the services our residents are going to get are just as good.”

For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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Letters: Crack down on illegal vacation rentals; Apologies to Mother Earth; Pay cuts are better than unemployment

Our high unemployment due to coronavirus is the direct result of Hawaii’s poor political leadership, which relies on tourism.

Former Gov. Linda Lingle made the case more than 10 years ago on why we need to diversify away from tourism. She was right.

However, it would not be surprising if our politicians would like to bring in even more tourists once this crisis abates to make up for lost revenue. The problem with this one-sided approach is that our local ohana does not look so favorably on tourism anymore.

Before this crisis began, everyone was tired of the traffic, gridlock and overrun beaches that local residents themselves could not enjoy anymore due to the number of tourists. Also, the new norm will be social distancing, which means fewer people at beaches. Hawaii’s fragile environment needs to be protected for Hawaii residents and our future generations.

We always talk about taking care of our local ohana. Let’s use this time to actually start doing it and look at options to diversify. And let’s pray that this crisis is over soon.

Angelika Burgermeister

Haleiwa

 

Crack down on illegal vacation rentals now

Now is a great time for the City and County of Honolulu to really crack down on illegal vacation rentals. We need money, so levy and collect the fines. The money could be used for our own stimulus checks for those in need. And when the tourist economy finally does reopen, hotel rooms can fill with legal vacationers paying the associated taxes and employing workers who earn a living wage and benefits.

Casey Cummings

Haleiwa

 

Let coronavirus crisis be a catalyst for change

The COVID-19 cloud could have a silver lining. Epidemics are like wars in human history; they are catalysts for change. Sometimes when we say “can’t,” it is because we never tried. Here are few of the items on my wish list:

>> We have a No Driving Day each and every month worldwide to reduce pollution.

>> All professional associations in health care create a fund to stockpile needed protective equipment, funded by a weekly voluntary contribution of $5, paid for by going without coffee or alcohol one day a week. Or we add $1 per month to the premium of every health insurance policyholder.

>> We use our new understanding of which workers are essential to make sure they get paid a good minimum wage. We stop looking past them when we walk by.

And so forth.

Lloyd Lim

Makiki

 

Apologies for how we treat Mother Earth

Dearest Mother: A not-so-happy Earth Day. For a few centuries we have violated you, abused you and extracted our fuels from you. We have created political and economic systems that have caused massive extinctions of our fellow species. We have not been kind to you, Mother. We apologize.

For next year’s Earth Day you will feel much better! You will lose far fewer fossils, suffer fewer storms and thrive on many more trees. We will take care of you and

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