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Bill to protect renters using Section 8 vouchers advances

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Screenshot/Craigslist.org
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A rental listing on Craigslist prohibiting prospective tenants who participate in the Housing Choice Vouchers commonly known as Section 8. SB206 would prohibit such advertising. (Screenshot taken Feb. 3, 2022)

A measure that would prohibit landlords from denying a prospective tenant for using a Section 8 housing voucher has passed the State Senate.

Senate Bill 206 is to prohibit discrimination against prospective tenants because they are participating in a housing assistance program. This includes advertisements on rental listings.

At a Senate Judiciary committee last week, it was reported that nearly 700 hundred emergency housing vouchers had been allocated to Hawaii since mid-2021. But only 36 of them have been able to find housing as of last week — or 5%.

“We need the use of these vouchers to be able to transition the homeless over into affordable housing," Sen. Joy Buenaventura said on the Senate floor. She is also the chair of the Committee on Human Services.

"We already know that there's already a problem with affordable housing, but this trend, transitory need that is not being served because landlords are refusing to accept these vouchers are causing a strain on our homeless population and our homeless shelters."

Brandee Menino, CEO of Hope Services Hawaii, submitted testimony in support of the bill. The nonprofit provides services to Hawaii Island's homeless population.

"As long as rental income discrimination remains legal, there will be a perception that is acceptable, and no amount of education will change that," Menino wrote in testimony.

The Senate voted unanimously in favor of SB206. The proposal now goes to the House. If the bill passes, landlords could face a fine of up to $5,000 for violations.

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