Se­niors in Kakaako hous­ing to get rent as­sis­tance

Honolulu Star-Advertiser - - LOCAL / BUSINESS - By Nanea Kalani nkalani@starad­ver­ STAR-AD­VER­TISER

Gov. David Ige an­nounced Wed­nes­day that the state plans to pro­vide $2.8 mil­lion over 15 years in rental sub­si­dies for se­niors liv­ing in the Na Lei Hulu Kupuna af­ford­able hous­ing project, where ten­ants feared rent in­creases un­der new own­ers.

Ige said the fund­ing would come from the state’s rental as­sis­tance pro­gram un­der the Hawaii Hous­ing Fi­nance & De­vel­op­ment Corp.

“I was very con­cerned when I read the stories about rent in­creases at Na Lei Hulu Kupuna in Kakaako. Those of our se­niors and the kupuna who live in those units can­not af­ford to pay sig­nif­i­cant in­creases in their rents,” Ige told re­porters. “We will be work­ing with the de­vel­oper to as­sure that this pro­gram can help those in most need to man­age any rent in­creases.”

The rent sub­si­dies — up to $250 a month — would ben­e­fit 50 ex­ist­ing res­i­dents in the 75-unit build­ing who al­ready re­ceive rental as­sis­tance from the state.

To be el­i­gi­ble to rent in the build­ing, ten­ants must be 62 years or older and earn no more than 60 per­cent of area me­dian in­come, or $43,980.

When the build­ing’s own­er­ship changed in De­cem­ber from a state agency and Bank of Hawaii to Mark De­vel­op­ment Inc., the new owner de­clined to as­sume a rental as­sis­tance pro­gram con­tract that had three years re­main­ing.

The com­pany ear­lier this month sent ten­ants a let­ter about a new “rent struc­ture” with monthly rents sig­nif­i­cantly higher than the $675 that renters have been pay­ing. Craig Watase, pres­i­dent of Mark De­vel­op­ment, said the com­pany failed to make clear that ex­ist­ing ten­ants would not be sub­ject to the higher rents; the higher rates would ap­ply to in­com­ing ten­ants, he said.

Watase said he made a com­mit­ment to ex­ist­ing res­i­dents that they would con­tinue to have their rents sub­si­dized for at least the rest of the year while he searched for subsidy op­tions.

“None of the ex­ist­ing ten­ants are go­ing to pay a dime more than they were pay­ing be­fore. So no­body got a rent in­crease,” Watase said Wed­nes­day. “We were guar­an­tee­ing it for one year. The gov­er­nor is now mak­ing it so that it’s go­ing to go on for a long time.”

Watase said when Mark De­vel­op­ment be­came the prop­erty’s man­ager five years ago, it found that rent had not been in­creased since the build­ing opened in


“The rents were frozen in time at the 60 per­cent of (area me­dian in­come) level, while 25 years later, the 60 per­cent area me­dian in­come for an apart­ment is $1,099,” he said.

The new rent sched­ule is tiered so that se­niors earn­ing 40 per­cent of area me­dian in­come would pay $733; those earn­ing up to 50 per­cent of area me­dian in­come would pay $916; and those earn­ing 60 per­cent of area me­dian in­come would pay $1,099. The rent in­cludes elec­tric­ity and wa­ter.

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