City program gives hope to renters
Homeowners are recognized as "living proof" of success
David Paz found himself still struggling after winning a bout with drug addiction seven years ago. The 40-year-old ended up living at his mother's house as he tried to get an education.
But through the Section 8 Homeownership Option Program, Paz has been a homeowner in Wahiawa for a year. Yesterday, the city recognized Paz and other new homeowners through the program.
The city Department of Community Services administers the Section 8 program to provide rental assistance to 3,800 low-income families. However, the city hoped to have the families become self-sufficient and own homes.
With the city's homeownership program, about 140 families are allowed to apply their monthly housing assistance subsidy to mortgage payments instead of rent. Of them, 15 own homes.
"You are living proof, that despite high housing costs and low wages, you can still become a homeowner," said Michael Flores, director of public housing at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Honolulu field office.
About $3.4 million in grants and loans have been paid out for homeownership down payment assistance. About $33 million every year is spent toward rental subsidies for the 3,800 families, and city officials hope to move them toward ownership.
Paz said he hopes to be weaned off the Social Security he receives because of a mental disability he received during drug addiction. He attends Honolulu Community College and will be transferring to the University of Hawaii.
Mayor Mufi Hannemann called the six homeowners in attendance yesterday "role models" for the rest of the community, and Paz said he hopes he could raise awareness about the programs available for home ownership.
"The rent market is terrible, and I had to get off it," Paz said. "All I can say to others is that it's all baby steps. It doesn't happen overnight."