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Bill limits tenants’ stay to 7 years

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Hawaii lawmakers are considering a plan that would provide work incentives for new tenants of public housing while limiting the number of years they can live there. Here, children play outside public housing units at Mayor Wright Homes in Honolulu.

Hawaii lawmakers are considering limiting the number of years people can live in public housing if they agree to an incentive program in advance, hoping to create more movement in a system with a yearslong waiting list.

By accepting a seven-year limit, potential tenants on the waiting list would get priority to move into apartments. They’d have their monthly rent frozen at the lowest possible level, instead of tying their rent to income.

Democratic State Rep. Sylvia Luke, chairwoman of the House Finance Committee, wants to encourage people to move out of public housing to make room for people living on the streets.

“We really needed a lot of turnover in all areas, including the shelters and the public housing, for us to transition people who are homeless” into housing, Luke said.

There were 13,645 people on the statewide public housing waiting list Wednesday, said Dawn Takeuchi Apuna, chief planner for the Hawaii Public Housing Authority. It can take up to five years to get to the top of the list, according to the housing authority’s website. The turnover rate is only about 4 percent annually.

Typically, public housing rent is equal to a third of a tenant’s income, or a minimum amount such as $128 per month for a two-bedroom apartment — whichever amount is greater, Luke said. Some public-housing tenants with jobs pay about $1,000 a month, while others might pay a tenth of that to live in an equivalent space.

The policy discourages some people from pursuing higher-income jobs, because their rent goes up with their earnings, Luke said.

“It’s almost a disincentive for folks to actually work and better themselves and earn higher wages,” Luke said. “It’s penalizing them.”

Under her proposal, HB 2638, people who agree to the seven-year time limit would have their rent frozen at the minimum amount and could open a savings account, and the state would match their saved money when they move out.

“To be incentivized to work and earn and get higher incomes is always a good thing, especially if folks are expected to eventually go out to the regular marketplace to find housing,” said Ed Cabrera, spokesman for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. “But knowing what I know about Hawaii, there aren’t that many places that can compete in terms of housing market unaffordability.”

Hawaii has 865 state-owned public housing units, according to Luke. The time-limit program would be available to people moving into renovated units, not those who are already living in public housing, she said.

Gov. David Ige in his budget proposed $31 million for public-housing improvements and renovation statewide.

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  • May sound to be a good direction/plan, however many of these public housing are culturally divided. One transitioning into public housing would face cultural clash, especially if one is a “druggie” or has mental instability. Perhaps the Representative, should have a plan for rehabilitation of potential tenants addressing their health needs first, before placing them into state housing.

  • I work in a school that deals with people living in the housing and while quite a few do make $1k a month or more, many of them lack the credit background that many landlords require in order to rent elsewhere.

    • Public school is another social program that was created by bleeding heart libs to “equalize” the playing field so to speak, but many of those who go/went to these institutions do/did not take their education seriously and guess where they will/ended up. We need to end these social programs to those who are not worthy or deserving of these social programs. Our socialist government here have created social programs where there is no insentive to go out and better yourself. Seven year is a good start on Section 8 social programs… We need to stop this cradle to grave support for those who don’t deserve to be supported. What the welfare w#ores need is a dose of reality, you work hard and you will get rewarded. We need to stop using the race card or events generations ago.

      • socialist government. It is a neo-liberal government. It is not remotely socialist and the safety net is minimal compared to more civilised countries like Denmark.

        • This is the USA, not Denmark. This country used to raise their kids to be independent and want as little to do with government as possible. Enabling folks to apply, receive and Expect lifelong government assistance is wrong and is a big part of what is wrong with this country.Feel free to move to Denmark if you care to get 50% of your income swiped. And one other thing, in Denmark To collect unemployment benefits, Danes must be available to work and take jobs that government job centers find. This in and pf itself would not work with most of the laziness in this Country.

  • How does the state make sure only the official lessees are living in the units? It would be very easy to have multiple bread-winners in a unit and not report all of their the incomes. One need only look at the vehicles parked in the public housing parking lots to suspect some of the people living there are gaming the system.

  • The SA missed a big chunk of the bill. This bill also calls for the creation of savings accounts where the State will match dollar for dollar whatever amount these public housing tenants save in the account.

  • Unfortunately, many of these tenants (not all, but many), if you cap their rent to allow them to keep more of their income, will buy a new car and worry about the consequences later.

  • Why should my tax dollar be used to match what these people “should” be saving in a deposit account? The state doesn’t give me any money??? Just ship these people out !!

    • You have a point and when I read the article my thought is: what an incentive not to get a better paying job!! But look who’s making the Law–tax and spend!!!

  • This sounds like a good idea, but I agree that most will spend the extra money and when tryst 7 years are up they will still be in their unsuited. The state takes so long if ever to evict tenants. I recall an article about eviction for non payment of rent took years to finally get them out. If they cannot enforce the basic rules and follow thriugh on the bad apples, I highlydoubt they would enforce the 7 years rule.

  • What a deal! Pay $128 a month rent for seven years. Then move out and go homeless for a few months, then get put back in public housing. Taxpayers are suckers.

    • It’s not that easy as the article indicates, there is a waiting list and under the current 17 years rule, it take 5 years to move up to where one can get a unit. Entitlements of matching amount to individual tenants savings are a negative from a taxpayers viewpoint.

  • “The policy discourages some people from pursuing higher-income jobs, because their rent goes up with their earnings, Luke said.”

    “It’s almost a disincentive for folks to actually work and better themselves and earn higher wages,” Luke said. “It’s penalizing them.”

    This is wordy-world logic. It makes sense, and that is usually enough for some people, but that does not mean it an accurate generalization. And what does “almost a disincentive” actually mean?

    No wonder we never get anywhere.

    • Luke makes it sound like the “disincentive” situation is a new phenomenon. Ask any social worker and they’ll tell you it’s been a problem for decades. Many people who live in public housing don’t see it as a means to an end, but an end in itself.

  • Bogus solution dressed up as an idea. There is no solution to this problem that involves kicking people who can’t afford to live anywhere else out of public housing. Part of the solution could be building more of both public housing and truly affordable housing, but that’s not as easy as just passing a bill.

  • How about going one step further where mandatory job training or schooling is provided with the housing???? This way, they do not slip back into being residentially challenged.This will be a fix to the problem not a band aid.

  • What’s the point of them agreeing to a 7-year limit? They could say “No, I’m not agreeing. I will stay here forever and you better maintain my unit.”

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