Success Stories

Maui REALTORS® Staves Off Threat to Short-Term Rental Permits

April 2020

When the Maui County Planning Department quietly floated the idea of ‘phasing out’ short-term rental permits, touting a vague sense that it would lead to more long-term rentals or affordable housing, the local REALTORS® association got right to work protecting the rights of property owners. With targeted research, communication, and a timely Call for Action supported by the REALTOR® Party, the Maui REALTORS® staved off the threat – for now.

Over the years, explains Jason Economou, Government Affairs Director for the REALTORS® Association of Maui, a growing anti-tourist/anti-foreign investor sentiment has developed on the island. “The rising cost of living is often blamed on property owners from the mainland or abroad who are believed to be milking their investment properties in the short-term rental market, but the issue is far more complex than that.” In this climate, the Planning Department’s move to curtail short-term vacation rentals was not necessarily surprising. But its reasoning, says Economou, was so weak and unsupported by facts, that the REALTORS® were able to poke a very effective hole in the effort with data, logic, and – by just showing up.

“It’s not easy to get a short-term rental permit,” he explains, “and those who have taken great pains and patience to be compliant with the law, also contribute significantly to the local tax roll.” His office compiled statistics on how many such permits were actually held by full-time residents of Hawaii (a majority); and how many such properties could possibly be considered ‘affordable’ if they were to be offered on the long-term rental market or for sale (very few.)  Reaching out to colleagues in the local property management industry, they also gathered information on the income that short-term rentals on the island provided to its housekeeping and landscaping force.

When the Planning Department called a preliminary hearing on the issue, the Maui REALTORS® made sure that locals in favor of protecting the well-regulated short-term rental permits were there in force. Economou appeared on a popular radio program explaining the fine points of the issue and drove all over the island to speak at various brokerage meetings and caravans.  His podcast, the “RAM GAD POD,” spent that week focused on the hot topic, and a phone call to the National Association of REALTORS® set a full-blown Call for Action in motion within a couple of hours.

The response was dramatic: a whopping 29% of the REALTORS® who received an alert responded through various channels, and approximately 200 members of the public completely overwhelmed the space that the Planning Department had allotted for the March 6 meeting.  When the sign-up list to testify exceeded four pages, the meeting administrator cancelled all testimony in favor of a Q&A session. Thanks to the preparation of the REALTORS®, the questions were hard-hitting, and there were very few satisfactory answers.

Economou credits his highly engaged membership with rising to the occasion. In a county with a population of 165,000, the 1,700-member REALTORS® Association of Maui represents a sizable percentage, he notes. Not only that, but those members are highly active in the community, involved in the churches, on Rotary, and serve on the boards of many of the charities on the island, which gives the REALTORS® notable esteem, as well as presence. “The REALTOR® profile is also somewhat amplified because of our access to significant resources, largely thanks to the National Association of REALTORS®,” he says. “We are so grateful to the REALTOR® Party for its support and expertise in helping us to tackle issues that mean so much to our members and our communities.”

To learn more about how Maui’s REALTORS® are protecting private property rights and defending laws they believe to be working well, contact Government Affairs Director Jason Economou at 808-243-8585, and check out the RAM GAD POD!

Proposed Ordinance Banning Existing Vacation Rentals

Read how the REALTOR® Association of Maui used the Land Use Initiative to understand the impact of a draft bill that would amend the Maui County Code of Ordinances to phase out the ability of certain unit owners to rent their units short-term. Log-in required.

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