Rent control to prevent homelessness?

Kakaako Makai Park 5

The Civil Beat news site published an editorial calling for rent control to be among the options that should be considered to help address Hawaii’s terrible housing crunch.

Rent control may sound nice to some, but it doesn’t always work out as intended and an actual push to establish it in Hawaii would probably just become a big distraction and tool for extracting campaign contributions from threatened special interests.

Speaking of which, Civil Beat surprisingly neglected to mention the lack of serious enforcement against illegal Transient Vacation Units (TVUs) as being among the major factors that have contributed to our housing woes.

It’s simple.  If a landlord can make a lot more money renting a unit to tourists for short terms, the unit will not be available for real residents to rent long-term.  And removing units from the real housing market like that greatly exacerbates the housing crunch and fuels the homelessness crisis.

Illegal vacation rentals also change the fabric of communities and create tensions among neighbors.  Groups like Keep it Kailua and Save North Shore Neighborhoods have been raising these issues for a long time.

The city has failed for years and years to enforce laws that make it illegal to rent unpermitted units as vacation accommodations, so landlords have had nothing to fear by blatantly flouting the laws.  A few have paid taxes on their illegal rentals, openly acknowledging their transgressions but figuring that tax payments make it all okay.  They don’t.

The city has lately been making noise about a crackdown, but it’s too little, too late.  As usual.

Governor David Ige had the good sense and political will to veto a bill that would have facilitated illegal vacation rental operations but dangled the carrot of allowing websites operated by others to collect taxes for the state.  He didn’t bite.

If authorities want to get serious about addressing this housing crunch and homelessness crisis, they better get serious about enforcing laws we already have.  And that means enforcing laws against crooked landlords, not just the homeless who pitch their tents.

Don’t be surprised if more people start sleeping in beach parks on the North Shore and in Kailua.





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