In the first rent increases in years, the city on
Feb. 1 will begin raising rates on 10 “affordable” residential properties across Oahu, including those for low-income senior citizens.
Rental prices will increase 3, 5 or 10 percent depending on income levels and properties.
Combined, Chinatown Gateway Plaza, Chinatown Manor, Harbor Village, Kanoa Apartments, Kulana Nani, Manoa Gardens Elderly, Marin Towers, Westloch Elderly, Weslake Apartments and Winston Hale account for 1,170 rental units.
The price hike that goes into effect March 1 at the city’s Winston Hale apartments on River Street on the edge of Chinatown means that Esperanza Dumacder, 85, will have to come up with another $50 every month for her studio apartment when her rent jumps to $465 per month from $415.
In addition, Dumacder will have to find another $50 for a one-time payment to increase the size of her rental deposit to cover the new monthly rate.
Dumacder has no pension or retirement account, and relies on her monthly Social Security payment of
$1,077 to cover all of her expenses. Now she worries the extra $50 per month will price her out of the apartment she’s lived in since 1984 and could put her on the street, adding to Oahu’s homeless population.
“Yes, yes I’m worried, of course,” Dumacder said in her apartment Wednesday. “I’m old already, and everything just goes up, up, up, up.”
Mark Chandler, director of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Honolulu Community Planning Development Office, said the city has not raised rental prices in a decade for some of its affordable properties, and could have increased rents much higher.
Some low-income, senior citizen tenants at Winston Hale who live in smaller studio apartments than Dumacder’s pay $315 per month, which Chandler called “pretty low.”
Under HUD guidelines the city could have imposed new rental prices “as high as $1,333 per month” for those $315 apartments, Chandler said. “The city has the right to increase rents. They’re a landlord just like any landlord.”
But that does not help Winston Hale tenants such as Jimmy Suyet, 81, find the extra $50 rental deposit he needs, along with the additional $50 every month to cover his higher rent that kicks in.
Suyet pays $362 per month for the studio apartment he’s lived in since 1975. He survives on a monthly Social Security payment of $695 and an additional $601.27 per month from the years he spent as a purchasing agent at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard.
The higher rent “will hurt me,” Suyet said. “That means there’s less (money) left for me.”
When he moved into Winston Hale 42 years ago, Suyet said, his monthly rent was $84.
Ross Sasamura, director of the city’s Department of Facility Maintenance, said in a statement that “the city continues to operate affordable housing properties at a loss, and the modest rent increases will help to offset some of this cost.”
In addition, new tenants moving into Winston Hale will be charged even higher rents of $600 per month for apartments that have not been renovated — and
$800 per month for renovated units — to help offset the losses, Sasamura said.
Roberto Reyes, 52, lives with his 18-year-old son in a Winston Hale studio apartment that costs $415 per month, and is facing a
He’s waiting to be called to work as a banquet porter, and January is shaping up to be a lean month, he said.
“My income not stable,” Reyes said. “Three weeks and no more job.”
Father and son Ray
Mark Reyes rely on food stamps, and the younger Reyes helps out with his minimum-wage, part-time fast-food job.
Roberto Reyes is outright angry about paying more for an apartment that he says provides unacceptable living conditions.
He opened a cabinet below his sink to reveal a pile of sawdust and wood he blames on his deteriorating kitchen. He said he’s pleaded with Winston Hale management to provide him with paint so he could personally paint over dark stains on his white cinderblock walls. And Reyes said he’s disgusted with the stains in his bathroom.
Reyes insisted that the conditions were bad when he moved in seven years ago and that he’s been complaining ever since.
“I clean and clean and it still stinks,” Reyes said. “I worry about it all the time, and I cannot sleep.”
Hawaiian Properties Ltd. manages Winston Hale and four other residential properties for the city, and property manager Brittiany L. Hulings insisted that Reyes had it wrong.
“They don’t move in (with conditions) like that,” Hulings said. “You’re going to get that with age.”
Even though Reyes maintains that he has been offering to paint his apartment himself and insists he has been complaining about his cabinets and bathrooms, Hulings said, “If they don’t tell us, we can’t fix it.”
Lynne Ditchen, 64, also has been complaining about conditions at Winston Hale and now worries about the fate of herself and her low-income, senior neighbors who all face higher housing costs.
“A lot of people are elderly,” Ditchen said. “My Social Security is all I have. (After rent) all my income goes to food.”