HONOLULU (AP) — The Honolulu City Council is considering limiting hoteliers from converting hotel rooms to condominium units.
The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Thursday (http://bit.ly/1fWqfBv ) that the council advanced a bill unanimously that would require hotel owners to get permits if they want to convert 20 percent or more of their rooms to condos.
Members of a group organized by Unite Here Local 5, a union for hotel and health care workers, were rallying in support of the bill Thursday. The union says condo properties employ fewer people.
"This is just one step toward protecting our good, local jobs, and I hope this discussion on sustaining our local economy will continue," said Eric Gill, secretary-treasurer of the union.
Industry officials in tourism and real estate said the bill could cost jobs by making development and renovation more risky and less profitable.
The conversions are part of why Hawaii lost 8,000 hotel units statewide over the last decade, including 5,000 in Waikiki.
"The question of capacity needs to be addressed. But we should be looking at how to make it easier for investors to come into Hawaii and for hotel owners to improve their product," said Keith Vieira, principal of KV and Associates, a hotel consulting firm.
"Hotel owners, especially those of off-beach properties, often use mixed-use concepts to offset the high cost of construction and doing business in Hawaii," he said.
Workers say converting units to condos makes their jobs less stable with fewer hours.
"There are some weeks where I don't have any shifts scheduled, including these last two weeks," said Ludivina Collins, a 23-year-old housekeeper. "If all our hotel rooms are converted, we'll lose our jobs."