And they say too many landlords are turning away those with housing subsidies.
HOPE Services Hawaii in Hilo says there are multiple listings on the Big Island with rental properties refusing Section 8 or other government housing vouchers.
Kristen Alice, director of community services, calls it a “pervasive myth” that people who don’t have a lot of money are “bad people” or may “trash the property.”
One rental listing on Craigslist for a two-bedroom unit in Hilo says “county housing not accepted.”
Another one for an $800 per month studio says “sorry no section 8.”
It’s frustrating to the service providers trying to find units for low-income clients.
“They are calling these landlords begging them to make an exception and just give the people that we serve an interview,” said Alice.
This year the state Legislature debated a bill that would make it illegal to deny a rental to someone because they are getting housing aid. The measure failed to pass.
“Especially during this economic crisis and during the pandemic, it’s really unfortunate the folks are discriminating against housing vouchers because it actually is a guaranteed source of income,” said State Sen. Laura Acasio, who represents Hilo.
“Right now we are talking a lot about moral responsibility,” she added.
Derek Lau, president of Hawaii Realtors, says housing assistance is an important safety net.
But he said landlords sometimes shy away from those with vouchers because the process involves red tape that can make it difficult for small owners who rely on the rental income.
“They will get their first check and then sometimes wait up to three months for subsequent rental checks,” said Lau.
“The majority of housing providers are small mom and pop type owners,” he added.
Hawaii Realtors says it’s working with the Hawaii Public Housing Authority to create more incentives for vouchers. Some ideas include a one month bonus to housing providers and a revolving fund that would front load the payments.
The Legislature says 10 states have laws that prohibit income discrimination in housing.
“I think it’s a question of do we use a carrot or a stick,” said Lau.
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