Legitimizing Airbnb’s illegal activity? In Hawaii, and across the country, the stakes are too high for leaders to fail

In the Honolulu Civil Beat last week, Victor Gemaniani of the Hawaii Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice made an incredibly important point about the threats that Hawaii faces from short-term rental sites like Airbnb:

Airbnb and a number of other internet-based companies are offering to help in collecting taxes for their illegal short-term rentals in Hawaii that are using their platform.

These companies profit heavily from property owners engaged in this illegal rental activity. Applying taxes to these otherwise illegal rentals gives the appearance of legitimacy. It also creates an economic disincentive that discourages enforcement of rental laws designed to protect our residential neighborhoods.

Authorizing internet platforms to collect taxes on the illegal short-term rental of local housing units would be tantamount to provide an aura of legitimacy to this illegal practice. The result would be to further deplete the precious supply of housing available to our residents.

Residents of the islands suffer at the hand of a massive network of illegal, commercial Airbnb operators – with almost all of Airbnb’s revenue on the islands, over 85 percent on Oahu alone, comes from multi-unit investors and entire-home rentals.

Long-time residents across Hawaii face a significant affordable housing crisis, and a growing homelessness epidemic.

If leaders across the state fail to protect their residents from big money Airbnb landlords, the consequences are dire.

But this isn’t the case only on Hawaii – it’s the case in states across the country, where commercial operators are buying up homes and driving up rent, while parent companies like Airbnb turn a blind eye and look for loopholes to legitimize their bad actors.

The time for action is now. We cannot allow policymakers to turn a blind eye to the devastating impacts of Airbnb’s illegal hotels. Learn more here.