Converting Maui vacation rentals to longer-term housing causing frustration for owners

Feb. 26—Gov. Josh Green had threatened to ban short-term rentals if owners of 3, 000 Maui vacation rentals did not provide stable housing by Friday.

A part-time Maui couple's decision to convert their vacation rentals into longer-term housing for Maui fire survivors followed weeks of frustration, cancellations by repeat loyal visitors over whether they are welcome on the Valley Isle and the threat by Gov. Josh Green to shut down Maui's short-term rental market.

John and Valori Egan—who live on Maui four months of the year during the winter—agreed to lease their three one-bedroom, one-bath ocean-view condos at the Kuleana Resort on Lower Honoapiilani Highway for 18 months to no more than two people for each unit, starting Friday.

In exchange, the Egans will not have to pay county property taxes, which they appreciate, but said they are not making above market-rate monthly income, as originally advertised.

Despite their frustrations, they're otherwise happy to do their part to help fire survivors recover.

"Obviously, it's nice to be able to help out, " Valori said. "Maui's been good to us. So it's nice to be nice to Maui and its people."

But the Egans say they felt pressured to convert their short-term vacation rentals—including the one they're currently living in.

Green had threatened to ban short-term rentals if owners of 3, 000 Maui vacation rentals did not provide stable housing by Friday.

At the six-month commemoration of the wildfires earlier this month, the governor indicated that enough property owners had volunteered to offer their properties to wildfire survivors to likely avoid a ban on short-term rentals on Maui, where there are an estimated 31, 000 legal and illegal rental units.

Maui County's Real Property Assessment Division reported last week that there were now 1, 065 properties being rented for a year or more to survivors, of which 53 % are transient vacation rentals. Another 538 properties are being rented for six to 11 months, of which 93 % are vacation rentals.

The county did not respond to multiple requests for clarification and had no comment on the Egans' contention that they are not earning above-market rate payments.

The Egans declined to say how much they charge tourists to live in their condos—typically for a week, or as long as a month for winter "snow birds."

John only said that leasing to Maui fire survivors adds up to a difference of about $50 per night.

Otherwise, John said he's "not comfortable " providing additional economic details on their vacation rental business.

Asked where they'll live when they convert their personal Kuleana condo on Friday, the Egans—John is 75 and Valori's 68—said they could end up in Colorado, Europe or possibly South America.

"We're not sure yet, " Valori said. "It's up in the air. This is a total life change for us."

The Egans' transition represents a significant step in Green's broader hopes to fill the backlog of 50, 000 affordable homes across all the islands by convincing owners of short-term vacation rentals to, instead, offer longer-term housing for island residents to prevent them from joining the exodus of Hawaii residents moving to more affordable states.

Maui's estimated 31, 000 vacation rentals, alone, represent more than half of the overall statewide shortage.

Both Green and state House and Senate leaders have pledged to do more this legislative session to make housing more affordable in Hawaii.

Over the past three years, the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism estimates, the difference between incoming U.S. residents and outbound Hawaii residents leaving for the mainland has resulted in an overall loss of 36, 789 people, costing the state $185 million overall in lost income and general excise tax revenue.

Pacific Resource Partnership, the advocacy arm of the Hawaii Carpenters Union, blames the exodus of island residents on Hawaii's high cost of living and, especially, the lack of affordable housing.

The shortage remains tight for fire survivors who want long-term housing in West Maui.

According to the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement's Helping Maui website, "We know that most people want to live in West Maui. We are trying to secure units all over Maui, including West Maui. But, our program will not secure enough units in West Maui for everybody who wants to live there."

CNHA said, "Often, these units are more expensive than what most people can afford. We will work with you to determine how much you can afford, and see if you qualify for rental assistance from FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency ) and other philanthropic sources."

For more information for both landlords and renters, visit.

To convince more property owners to convert their short-term vacation rentals into long-term housing for Hawaii residents, the Egans and others argue that more financial incentives need to be offered to make it financially worthwhile.

"Government has to do more, " Valori said.

In the meantime, she said, Maui owners of short-term rentals are "totally frustrated. They threaten us with a moratorium, and now there's nobody in them. There's no communication. It's probably the most frustrating thing John or I have been involved with. Very, very, very frustrating. And it's not over yet."