This year, the National Low Income Housing Coalition reported that approximately 30-40 million Americans are now at risk of homelessness as a result of the pandemic. While we are far away, Hawai’i is no different. In fact, housing concerns in our islands are heightened, where Hawaii ranks #1 in housing unaffordability and struggles with mass homelessness. The pandemic has hit while we were already in the middle of a mass housing crisis created by inadequate wages and a shortage of affordable housing.
According to data collected on income and rental costs, Hawaii ranks #1 in housing costs, where cost of rentals is prohibitively high compared to minimum and median wages.
While leadership deliberates on “resort bubbles” and setting up testing, contract tracing, and adequate unemployment benefits, a large percentage of Hawai’i residents are still unemployed without benefits, while many others who have been re-hired into the workforce have taken pay cuts and less stable jobs.
Unemployment and reduced hours and wages have put even previously stable households at risk of eviction and homelessness. Being evicted leaves a permanent mark on your record. An eviction makes it harder to find and rent a place to live — despite stable employment and previously untarnished rental record.
In 2008, we experienced a similar market crash which produced an economic downturn from which we were still recovering from when the pandemic hit. Typically it can take 10-years to recover from an economic or natural disaster. We urge our supporters to reach out to legislators to protect social safety nets that are imperative to that recovery process, and often overlooked when balancing strained government budgets.
Neighborhood Place of Puna is currently collaborating with other Hawai`i agencies to provide rental and mortgage assistance through the CARES ACT. If you are behind on your monthly rent or mortgage payments because you have lost income as a result of COVID-19, you can apply for assistance here.
We know that countless individuals have experienced this crisis in ways that threaten community housing stability. Please share this program with your loved ones, family and friends. It is likely to help someone close to you who needs the support.