Around 43% of Hawaii residents rent the home in which they live, one of the highest rates in country. With many of those renters now out-of-work, concern is growing about their ability to pay for housing.
Today is the first of the month, which means rent is due for thousands of people across Hawaii.
A recent national survey by the research group Eviction Lab ranked Hawaii in the top third of states for protecting renters during the COVID-19 pandemic.
But a University of Hawaii economist says there are long-term issues related to housing stability that still need to be addressed. Sky-rocketing unemployment, combined with Hawaii’s high rates of home rentals, signals potential trouble ahead for the islands.
One-third of Hawaii’s 670,000 workers have lost their jobs in recent weeks. Many of them worked in low-wage industries like food service and hospitality, meaning they likely rent their residence, rather than own, and have little in the way of savings.
Emergency orders from Gov. David Ige halted most evictions for now through May 31, but University of Hawaii economist Phillip Garboden argues that more needs to be done to keep people housed in the coming months.
In a recent post for the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization, Garboden argues the best way to do that is with more federal funding, either to expand Section 8 housing vouchers or to create a new program for compensating property owners for missed rent.
That could be similar to the Paycheck Protection Program, which after a rocky rollout is now helping struggling businesses make up for lost revenue.
Garboden paints a grim picture if that funding doesn't becomes available. Without federal assistance, he says, the state will have to extend eviction protections or even mandate some kind of rent forgiveness to prevent a wave of evictions.
But he also notes that would just shift the financial burden onto property owners, many of whom could be in the same dire straits as their tenants within a few months.
For help with rent and mortgage payments, see HPR's The Hawaii List: Curated, Updated Local Resources To Ride Out A Crisis.