Thousands of Maui vacation rentals are among the first to be cut

Maui took the lead in calling for vacation rentals to be eliminated under legislation passed yesterday. It will be signed into law today by the Governor of Hawaii.

Given the significant legal challenges ahead, the path forward is uncertain. What is clear is that Hawaii wants to move toward a future in which the interests of tourism take a backseat to the needs of residents.

Maui is already working at breakneck speed to transform Hawaii's vacation rental market. Following yesterday's passage of Senate Bill 2919, which gives local counties the authority to regulate or even eliminate short-term rentals. Maui Mayor Richard Bissen has already announced bold plans to significantly reduce the number of vacation rentals on the Valley Isle.

Layoffs underway on Maui, tourism plunges after fires

In a crucial step immediately after the bill was passed by the House, Mayor Bissen proposed a local law that aims to eliminate more than 7,000 vacation rental units by January 1, 2026. This strategy primarily targets units in West Maui, the hardest-hit area. The housing crisis was made worse by last year's devastating wildfires.

The current plan calls for 7,167 vacation rentals on Maui.

Mayor Bissen, speaking alongside leaders of the grassroots organization Lahaina Strong, emphasized the urgent need for long-term housing solutions for Maui residents, particularly those displaced by the wildfires. “We can hardly wait for more and more families to leave their homes and move away,” Bissen said during a press conference. He signaled a strong commitment to prioritizing housing over tourism.

The list of short-term rentals to be eliminated includes well-known resorts, as you can see below.

Tourism Crossroads on Maui |  The fight for harmony and recoveryTourism Crossroads on Maui |  The fight for harmony and recovery

This latest Maui initiative is not without significant challenges.

The proposed changes are expected to have a major economic impact, including the potential for job losses in several sectors related to holiday rental support, as well as reduced visitor spending.

Property tax revenue from these vacation rentals, which is currently a major financial support for all of Maui, will also decline significantly. Bissen acknowledged these challenges but insisted that the priority must be “accommodating our local residents, especially now.”

The Maui bill will next be referred to the Planning Commission for the Islands of Maui, Molokai and Lanai. Next, it needs approval from the county's housing and land use committee and the entire county council. There will also be public hearings that will undoubtedly spark contentious debate due to the strong divisions in the Maui community about it.

Gov. Josh Green expressed his support but will take a back seat.

While Green supported and will sign the changes into law, saying that reducing vacation rentals could ease some of Hawaii's housing problems, he has given that back to the counties, who will be on the front lines of the myriad opposition this plan brings will undoubtedly lead to this. Nonetheless, Green's commitment is to sign the bill into law, enabling the islands to address Hawaii's housing crisis.

As Maui takes these significant steps, this issue has now been thrust into the national spotlight. This, along with similar moves in other tourism-dependent markets, could set a precedent for successfully balancing economic interests with housing needs.

These vacation rentals on Maui should be abolished.

If approved, the proposal would eliminate all vacation rental properties listed in the Maui County appendix below. There are more than 2,000 of these in West Maui that will no longer be vacation rentals by July 1, 2025. The remaining 5,000 will no longer be vacation rentals effective January 1, 2026. Some of the vacation resorts include up to 400 units, while others are smaller. You can see them all below.

Will this upcoming change impact your Maui travel plans?


Anna Harden

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