Vote NO on Senate Bill 1292 to protect Hawaiian children from dangers of short-term rentals

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Parents, community leaders, and government officials have a duty to protect the youngest and most vulnerable among us – our children. Passage of Senate Bill 1292 would endanger tens of thousands of children across Hawaii’s islands by legitimizing thousands of illegal short-term rentals that negatively impact our communities and threaten the safety of our children.  

 

It is not surprising that every parent faces multiple challenges in raising their family.  What may be surprising, however, is the safety challenge parents face with the influx of Airbnb short-term rentals into neighborhoods.  With a revolving door of strangers coming and going from short-term rental properties fueled by out-of-state commercial investors, tools like sex offender lists are becoming obsolete as there is no safeguard in place to stop a child predator from renting an Airbnb property next door. 

 

The growth of these short-term rentals, stemming from the influx of commercial interests buying up residential units to rent on sites like Airbnb, has become a significant concern among parents and law enforcement agencies in Hawaii and across the U.S. 

 

Over the last year, there have been numerous stories in cities across the country, of Airbnb rentals being used for prostitution, drug trafficking, gang activity and out-of-control parties, which have led to violence and shootings in residential neighborhoods.  Below are just a small sample of the now daily occurrence of short-term rentals endangering our communities:

 

·       “Investigation Finds Airbnb Hosts With Felony Records Despite Company Requiring Background Checks” (CBS 2 – Los Angeles, 11/7/18)

·       “Man Renting Airbnb Charged With Attempting To Sexually Assault 7-Year-Old” (Star Tribune, 9/26/17)

·       “Mom’s Warning After Convicted Sex Offender Stayed in Her Airbnb” (WFMY CBS North Carolina, 2/8/18)

·       “Brothel Busted: Suspects Rented Home Through Airbnb” (ABC 24 Memphis, 7/20/18)

·       “How A Registered Sex Offender Wound Up Living In An Airbnb” (Business Insider, 11/5/17)

·       “Home Rented On Airbnb Allegedly Used As Center For Prostitution Ring” (AOL News – Tennessee, 7/19/17)

 

Because of these negative impacts, many local jurisdictions across the country and in Hawaii have enacted short-term safeguards to protect residents, children and the community fabric that make up neighborhoods. 

 

This debate is not about private property rights.  It is about common-sense protections for our children and neighborhoods in Hawaii.  Individuals and families should absolutely be able to rent out their single units or homes, allowing true home sharing to occur.  But this process is being taken advantage of by commercial interests who are not necessarily vested in the community.

 

Airbnb says it conducts background checks on its hosts and users.  But their vetting process has clearly failed as new horror stories are reported daily.  Type into Google: “Airbnb and hidden cameras.”  Or “Airbnb and prostitution.”  And “Airbnb and crime.”  The stories are real and should not be ignored. 

 

As you walk the halls of state capitol today, I ask you to consider your own neighborhood.  Think about your next-door neighbors and those across the street.  What if your neighbors moved away and their homes were converted into short-term rentals or mini-hotels, replacing your neighbors with a revolving door of complete strangers and transients?

 

How would you feel, if you are a parent of young children, about your kids playing outside in the cul-de-sac, riding bikes or playing ball when you have no idea who is renting out the place next door and have no real way of finding out?  Even in the many retirement communities in Hawaii, how would you feel about an elderly parent or friend living next to a de facto hotel with that revolving door of strangers? 

 

Passage of Senate Bill 1292 would endanger tens of thousands of children across the Hawaiian islands and in your district.  We urge you to vote NO on Senate Bill 1292 and put our children’s safety first.  We don’t support a ban on short-term rentals but our neighborhoods and especially our children need state leaders to enact protections to safeguard our communities from the negative impacts of short-term rentals.