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StarBulletin.com

Vacation rentals not the culprit in Laie woes


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POSTED: Monday, September 14, 2009

Brigham Young University Hawaii President Dr. Steven Wheelwright is right about much-needed city/state support for the school's expansion and building affordable housing in North Laie ("Laie on the verge," Star-Bulletin, Aug. 30).

The area desperately needs the economic stimulus the expansion will bring.

To support his arguments, Dr. Wheelwright blames vacation rentals and second homes for a lack of affordable housing that is splitting families apart.

The Koolau Loa region hosts 137 vacation rentals (VRBO.com), or 3.8 percent of 3,618 homes. How could such trivial loss of homes have led to a family-splitting housing crisis in Laie? Lack of good jobs sounds more plausible.

Unfortunately and unwittingly, Dr. Wheelwright has given new ammunition to "Keep-it-Kailua" anti-vacation rental activists who have elevated his prognosis to gospel and are putting it front and center on the xenophobic banner behind which they march.

Oceanside homes never fall under affordable housing. Before wishing them gone, it should be recognized that Oahu's 1,500 or so vacation rentals bring so many visitors to the Polynesian Cultural Center; it would unlikely survive without them. Hundreds of BYU students would lose the jobs that pay for their education.

Laie-area vacation rentals are mostly used by mainland Mormon families checking their kids into BYU, visiting them between semesters, visiting local family or attend BYU reunions. Vacation rentals are about the only lodging option in the region.

Sensible regulation with enforcement, not an eradication, is what is needed to keep vacation rental proliferation in check.

Unfortunately, City Council members continue to avoid this issue so they can deal with more pressing issues ... like getting smelly people off The Bus.

Paul Swart plans to retire in Laie where he owns a second home.