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Aid Is Ready But There’s No Inventory in Kauaʻi's Rent Crisis

Catholic Charities Kauaʻi Program Administrator Melody Lopez
Catholic Charities Kauaʻi Program Administrator Melody Lopez

Finding a home on Kaua'i is getting increasingly difficult, even if you can afford more than $1 million. Inventory is low, and that is putting a squeeze on the rental market, too.

Eviction moratoriums are set to end by early August, and social service agencies say they have money to keep people in their homes.

Catholic Charities on Kauaʻi serves the whole island with housing and homeless programs. They're working with about a hundred households at any given time. These are the most vulnerable families on island, according to Program Administrator Melody Lopez, especially now that the Maui County-sponsored safe camping zones are closed.

"They're going back to hiding in places that they can. Several groups, they're concerned and trying to voice their efforts on, Where will they go? Where should they go?"

Lopez says they have about 400 homeless people on Kauaʻi. They've managed to house dozens of people but housing inventory is low and her clients may have large families.

"They have more barriers than the average person and they're competing against regular market renters," Lopez said.

Lopez says the majority of low-income residents are in private rentals.

"It would be wonderful if a lot of them could get into housing projects, low income, elderly housing, but those all have waitlists, so we end up looking to our private landlords. And believe it or not, we have some good ones that want to help these people, that we build relationships with. But it's a smaller amount of housing inventory."

Lopez says the state and county have rental assistance and payment vouchers available now to keep renters in place. The funds are available now. There is also a growing availability of people who can afford significantly higher rent.

"At yesterday's meeting, Legal Aid Society brought up the fact that there are some cases where even if they are caught up in rent, because the moratorium is lifting, I believe, August 6, there might be some populations that will be evicted, even if they're caught up in rent," she said. "That's a scary big issue. How are we going to help those guys?"

Lopez says to find out more about available resources, start by calling the Aloha United Way at 211. On Kauaʻi she welcomes people to call the Catholic Charities Hope line.

Noe Tanigawa covered art, culture and ideas for two decades at Hawaiʻi Public Radio.
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