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Hawaii opens Section 8 housing waitlist

With an estimated 20,000 people expected to apply, the Hawaii Public Housing Authority today is opening its Section 8 housing vouchers waitlist for the first time in four years.

This time, the federal housing money is being directed at needy Oahu families who are struggling to keep their homes during the coronavirus pandemic.

Starting today at 8 a.m., the authority will accept online applications from low-income families on Oahu who already have a place to live and have a landlord willing to participate in the Section 8 program.

The agency will accept applications until Monday at 4:30 p.m. and then randomly choose up to 3,ooo people for a waitlist in a program that aims to award housing assistance to 750 families over the next couple of months.

Hakim Ouansafi, executive director of the Hawaii Public Housing Authority, said the state recently obtained an extra $2 million in federal Department of Housing and Urban Development funds for the Section 8 program.

In order to direct the funds toward those at risk of losing their homes due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. David Ige approved emergency rules to expedite the administrative set-up process from several months to a few weeks, Ouansafi said.

“The need for low-income housing is imperative for hundreds of families across the state,” he said.

To qualify, applicants must have both a lease agreement and a landlord who has agreed to participate in the Section 8 program, including meeting criteria such as unit inspection, providing tax identification information and complying with other program rules.

Applicants may not earn more than 50% of area median income, or about $62,950 a year for a family of four.

In the past, getting landlords to join the Section 8 program has been a challenge. But now, with the economic struggles linked to the virus, Ouansafi said he would expect more landlords to jump on board.

“It’s not only relief for tenants, but also relief for landlords who want full market value for their units,” he said. “This is the smartest thing for any landlord who has a tenant they like and who they have had for years and want to keep.”

Under HUD’s Section 8 voucher program, those who are awarded housing vouchers pay between 30% and 40% of their income toward rent, and the housing authority covers the balance. But, for example, if income is zero, the agency will pay all of the rent, Ouansafi said.

“Housing security is the foundation for a strong community, and right now, we’re using every tool available to help people remain housed. I urge landlords to work with us to keep people who have lost their jobs or are underemployed because of the pandemic in their homes,” Ige said in a news release.

For the first time, the agency’s waitlist will be compiled with the help of a computer program that will chose application numbers randomly. Ouansafi said the system is more equitable than the previous first-come, first-served process that gave those who are more computer literate an advantage.

Ouansafi said the state has to spend the federal funds by the end of the year, so the agency is geared up to help distribute all of the funds over the next two months. This program is open to Oahu residents only.

More information and applications are available at

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