(BIVN) – Testifiers speaking at Tuesday’s Hawaii County Council Planning Committee meeting in Hilo urged the elected officials to consider the impacts of the ongoing eruption of Kilauea Volcano – on both the economy and the local housing market – before finalizing Bill 108, regulating short-term vacation rentals on Hawaii Island.
A vacation rental bill was a top priority for both the council and the administration at the start of the year. A heated discussion began with the introduction of Bill 108, which the council postponed in its planning committee after hours of public testimony. But the sudden eruption on Kilauea’s lower East Rift Zone changed the discussion.
Last night, lava inundated Kapoho, destroying most of what was once Vacationland and Kapoho Beach Lots. Many vacation rentals were operated in the area.
Kendra Tidwell, a staff member for Puna councilwoman Eileen O’Hara, spoke from the heart at the remote videoconference site in Pahoa. “A month ago I was living with my boyfriend in Leilani Estates,” she told the council, “and two weeks ago the house burned. Now, I’m looking for a rental. Maybe I can get a really funky studio for $800 bucks. I should be a landlord’s dream. I have a perfect history, great references, solid income. Before, I did rent out a guest room on Airbnb to make ends meet. It was $1,000 a month rent and I had to share my home with strangers just to live there. So I really appreciate the position that homeowners are in when they want to do a vacation rental. The time to find this balance is now.”
“I wish I could avoid watching my home burn,” Tidwell testified, “and I wish I could avoid all my friends becoming homeless.”
“I beg you as your own staff to find [a solution] immediately,” she said.
After discussing the bill and making some amendments, the council committee postponed the measure to the next Planning Committee meeting.