comscore Richard Borreca: Up to 45K Hawaii renters on brink could fall into abyss after July | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Editorial | On Politics

Richard Borreca: Up to 45K Hawaii renters on brink could fall into abyss after July

  • CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARADVERTISER.COM
                                Jodi Endicott’s “What’s Next” bus rider sculpture on Bishop St. becomes a practice in social distancing for two people waiting for the bus.

    CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARADVERTISER.COM

    Jodi Endicott’s “What’s Next” bus rider sculpture on Bishop St. becomes a practice in social distancing for two people waiting for the bus.

Forget about global warming, the increasing rise of ill-spirited, conservative political action groups, racial inequities and tensions.

Those are all serious problems demanding action — but right now Hawaii needs to think about what it is going to do in August. The crisis is about to happen across the state and so far nobody is saying, “OK, I have the plan, you can relax.”

The impending crisis is how to keep people in Hawaii in the homes they rent. Already, 2019 figures have identified 6,448 homeless people across the islands.

The fear is that 40,000 to 45,000 renter households will be unemployed, lose their extra $600 a week unemployment supplement, or not be receiving other rental assistance come July 31.

The predictions are that of that at-risk group, 21,500 will be at some risk of losing their housing, another 7,500 will be at “extreme risk of losing their housing.”

The grim predictions come from the state House Subcommittee on COVID & Housing (808ne.ws/3fPPdUD). It based its data on the research of the UHERO, the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization. The report was released last week and while it is not exciting reading, the report authorized by state House Speaker Scott Saiki charts one plan to prevent Hawaii’s existing housing crisis.

The report says people collecting unemployment insurance today are generally OK, they are able to pay their rent.

“Uncertainty about federal actions, the timing of Hawaii’s recovery, and other factors make it impossible to predict the scale, timing, and duration of housing needs,” the report warns.

The study proposed a $50 million housing relief fund that needy renters could draw from. It would also require landlords to ease up on collecting rents and cut them by 15%. Also, the government would be charged with making up the difference between rents owed and what out-of-work renters can pay.

The UHERO research (808ne.ws/2YLVdXm) says “roughly 44,000 renter households will be impacted by job loss through at least the end of the year. Given finite resources, myriad federal restrictions, and implementation challenges, there is no easy answer to the dilemma.”

The UH group urges that ways be found to “bring landlords to the table” to find ways to meet the new housing crisis.

Unfortunately, aloha and good thoughts only go so far when landlords need to pay their own mortgages and other bills. Today restaurants are closing across the state, not because customers suddenly don’t like the way they cook rice, but because the shops can’t afford to pay the rent, because unemployment in some places is at 40%.

The Legislature today has to act because there is no clear leadership coming from Gov. David Ige’s administration. New laws are needed by August to halt evictions, forgive rents and just hit the pause button for six months.


Richard Borreca writes on politics on Sundays. Reach him at 808onpolitics@gmail.com.


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