You can rent this Kauai plantation home on Poipu Beach.
Photo: Courtesy of HomeAway

It’s great for travelers, but is it good for the economy?

By Marisa Spyker

Anyone contemplating an escape to the Aloha State shouldn’t have trouble finding a stay that suits them just right, from a luxury villa with five-star ocean views to a tiny treehouse tucked deep into the jungle.

That’s because, according to a new report, if you venture into any neighborhood or stroll down any street in Hawaii, there’s a good chance at least one of the homes you see is available to rent for the week or the weekend.

The report, released by the Hawaii Appleseed Center for Law & Justice, recently found that one of every 24 homes in Hawaii (or 4 percent) is listed on sites like Airbnb as a vacation rental. The ratio jumps higher in Kauai, where one of every eight homes is used as a vacation rental.

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While this might be welcome news for travelers who are pretty much guaranteed their pick of prime rentals even during peak seasons, the center argues that such a high number of vacation rental homes (23,000 total) could be damaging to Hawaii’s residents and, subsequently, the economy. By increasing the number of homes used as short-term rentals, the state is experiencing an affordable housing crisis, says the center, with a shortage of affordable long-term rentals for full-time residents—nearly half of whom rent.

But according to Airbnb, vacation rentals have brought quite a bit of positive impact to the state, too. The rental company—the third largest operating in Hawaii—said in a statement to Fox News that Airbnb can help hosts afford to stay in their homes by bringing in much-needed supplementary income. Airbnb users are also, of course, tourists who spend money (to the tune of $649 million in 2016, according to the site) and help Hawaii’s economy thrive.

While the Hawaii debate is ongoing, if the 2017 deal between Airbnb and San Francisco is any indication, vacation rentals are here to stay (albeit with slightly more regulation).