Thursday, May 19, 2005

City to close
housing aid list

About 10,500 applicants are
currently on the waiting list to
receive rental housing assistance

The city will stop accepting new applications for its rental housing assistance program because there are too many people on its waiting list.

City & County of Honolulu "We don't want to give people false hope thinking that they're on the list and expect assistance very shortly," said community assistance administrator Gary Iwai of the Department of Community Services.

About 10,500 people are currently on the waiting list to receive assistance through the city's Section 8 rental housing assistance program. May 27 will be the last day the department will accept applications.

But trying to beat that deadline may be of little help.

Iwai said those numbered 10,000 and higher on the list of applicants will have to wait about seven years before it is determined whether they are eligible to receive assistance. At the current rate, new applicants would have to wait 10 years.

"This really shows the need for affordable housing," said city rental assistance administrator Sandra Toma.

"It's just an indication of the huge demand for housing, for subsidized housing. ... That's what's really needed," said Lynn Maunakea, executive director of the Institute for Human Services.

She added: "Even affordable rents aren't affordable for portions of the population. And that portion is getting bigger and bigger as property values are rising."

This is the second time in 11 years that the city has stopped accepting new applications.

It did so in 1994, when the list grew to 8,000 names. The list was reopened seven years later.

And now, it has grown again.

Iwai said his department has received about 300 to 350 applications a month in the past year.

"It continues to build. We'll never be able to get it out faster than the amount of applications coming in," he said. "We don't have enough resources in terms of funding to issue more vouchers."

Iwai added: "We could use more federal dollars. There are many more families out there that need assistance. The demand is greater than the supply."

Also, as rent increases in the state, the average rent subsidy goes up, which limits the number of families the department can assist, he said.

The high number of applicants on the waiting list has become a maintenance issue for the department as well, Iwai said. "The information gets so outdated. When the person's application comes up, you're doing the whole thing all over," he noted.

Iwai said his office will consider reopening the list when it reaches a manageable figure, possibly at 1,000 applicants. About 50 applicants are removed from the waiting list monthly.

The city receives about $30 million every calendar year in rental subsidies. It currently assists nearly 4,500 families.

The state is now considering reopening its waiting list for its Section 8 rental assistance program, which has been closed for the past six years.

"We'll certainly give it serious consideration," said Stephanie Aveiro, executive director of the Housing and Community Development Corporation of Hawaii. "The city has a first-rate section 8 program and I'm sure they made that decision based on good information. They know how long it takes to get these people vouchers."

The state closed its waiting list in April 1999. As of April 30 of this year, a total of 1,003 applicants are on the waiting list, while 2,210 applicants have used their vouchers.

Meanwhile, housing officials are discussing the transfer of the state's voucher program to the city. Officials said the city's decision to stop accepting applications will not affect transfer negotiations.


Housing assistance squeeze


» About 10,500 applicants are currently on the city's waiting list to receive rental assistance from the city Department of Community Services' federally funded Section 8 program.
» Nearly 4,500 families are currently being assisted.
» The city receives about $30 million a year in rental subsidies from the federal government.


» As of April 30, 1,003 applicants are currently on the state's waiting list to receive rental assistance from the state Housing and Community Development Corporation of Hawaii's federally funded Section 8 program.
» Currently, a total of 2,210 have used their vouchers through the program.
» The state received $15 million from the federal government for its Section 8 program.

Some options:

» City Housing Rental Assistance Program (RAP) offers a maximum of $150 per month. For more information, go to www.co.honolulu.hi.us/dcs/rentalassistance.htm .
» State Rent Supplement Program under the Housing and Community Development Corporation of Hawaii offers a $160 maximum subsidy a month. Applications are available at 1002 N. School St. Call 832-5960 for more information.
» Information on affordable housing projects for the elderly is available at the Oahu Housing Guide at www.elderlyaffairs.com.
» Catholic Charities Hawaii offers assistance for the elderly on housing applications and referrals. For information, call 595-0077.

City & County of Honolulu

E-mail to City Desk


© Honolulu Star-Bulletin -- http://archives.starbulletin.com