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Eviction Moratorium Over, But Tenants Have Some Protections

Hui Aloha volunteers Cathy Kawano Ching (L) and James Koshiba (R) distribute supplies and canvas for those who want the COVID-19 vaccine.
Noe Tanigawa
Hui Aloha volunteers Cathy Kawano Ching (L) and James Koshiba (R) distribute supplies and canvas for those who want the COVID-19 vaccine.

It's time for renters in Hawaiʻi to know their rights, according to the state homeless coordinator.

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention eviction moratorium. The state moratorium on evictions expired in early August.

Renters have more options for staying in their homes, as COVID conditions develop on the street.

It was a windy Saturday morning on Sand Island, and three volunteers were going from tent to tent across the beach. They offered hygiene supplies, granola bars, water, and asked, "You get the vaccine?"

James Koshiba is one of the founders of Hui Aloha, a group seeking to apply principles of aloha to solve Hawaiʻi's homeless problems.

Right now, they're trying to connect homeless people with vaccines.

On Monday, about 20 of these same people received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

"Partnerships with groups like Hui Aloha, with community groups and faith-based groups have been really important because providers can't do it by themselves."

State Homeless Coordinator Scott Morishige says they do not have numbers for how many people are on the street, they won't until the Point-in-Time Count next January.

'It's really difficult to say whether there's been an increase or not, but I think clearly, the problem is more visible," he said. "I think we are going to see more people not necessarily homeless but I think displaced. Having to maybe move in with family or friends or be doubled up or tripled up. With that, it's really critical we continue to keep the focus on how do we maximize federal funds that are coming into the community."

Morishige says as of last week, renters no longer have state or federal eviction moratoriums protecting them. Renters need to understand their rights. Recent legislation changes some conditions for eviction and mandates mediation. Also, the time required to give an eviction notice went from 5 to 15 days.

"Even if, let's say you have to negotiate a move-out day for your unit, the emergency rental assistance potentially could be used for prospective rent at a new place. And mediation may be able to help you buy more time."

Morishige expects federal resources to be flowing into the state through the American Rescue Plan and emergency housing vouchers. And money is available now. Morishige says cohesive teamwork forged during the pandemic is a key asset going forward — because, he says, things can happen quickly.

The state's homelessness.hawaii.gov website will be a clearinghouse for the latest housing assistance information as well.

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