Here’s How Vacation Rental Companies Like Airbnb Actually Affect Hawai‘i Locals

More vacation rentals means fewer homes for locals.
Is Kailua destined to become the next Lahaina?
Photo: Thinkstock


Search Airbnb or VRBO for a place to stay in Kailua and you’ll find dozens of vacation rental options from which to choose. From single rooms to entire estates, homes are available in every charming corner of Kailua on these sites, and the closer you get to the water, the denser the opportunities become.


Image: Courtesy of VRBO


Then search for a long-term rental in Kailua and you get a very different result. Only nine homes pop up, and none are within walking distance of the beach.


Vacation rentals
Image: Courtesy of Honolulu Board of Realtors MLS


Is it surprising? Consider the options for a homeowner with a vacant property: Short-term rentals can make their owners, most of whom reside out of state, approximately three-and-a-half times the income as long-term rentals. And bad tenants, who don’t pay rent on time, damage homes or refuse to leave, are much more common among long-term renters. It can be difficult to get them out and often requires expensive legal assistance.


The Hawai‘i Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice released a study in March that shows that the number of vacation rentals in our state has increased by 35 percent in the past two years alone. We now live in a state where 1 in every 24 homes is a vacation rental. It’s most prolific on the Neighbor Islands—in Lahaina, for example, 1 in 3 homes is now available for short-term rental for visitors. And while we tend to think of those as people renting out rooms in otherwise inhabited homes, that’s not the case. A full 93 percent of those rentals are for entire houses.


The Appleseed report shows that statewide, 27 percent of home sales are to nonresidents. In a time when housing prices are extremely high, we see 43 percent of Hawai‘i residents renting. And more and more long-term rental options are converted to short-term rentals. VRBO and Airbnb make it easy.


Tourism is vital to our state’s economy; however, the study states that while we do see some economic benefit from spending by tourists who rent these homes (as well as taxes incurred), the cost to our economy and residents is often considered greater. Is Kailua destined to become the next Lahaina?


To read more about the report, click here.