Hawai‘i is among those jurisdictions that have not outlawed rental housing assistance discrimination, a practice in which landlords can refuse to accept housing applications from those receiving certain types of rental assistance. While many advertisements from such landlords contain wording such as “No Section 8” or “No housing vouchers,” others make no mention of discrimination, and prospective tenants are not informed until they call, visit, or submit an application for a rental property. Because of Hawai‘i’s high housing costs, many renters rely on vouchers to remain stably housed.
Several bills that would address this issue are making their way through the Legislature. SB 206 recently passed out of the Senate Judiciary committee and crossed over to the House. In addition, SB 2399 was recently heard in the Senate Consumer Protection Committee, and SB 2468 recently passed out of the joint Senate committees on Housing and Government Operations.
“We think it’s time to eliminate the stigma that often comes with using a housing subsidy, and this is the key first step in achieving that,” said Bob Wardlaw, the Advocacy Committee chair for Partners in Care, O‘ahu’s Continuum of Care. “Ultimately, there is no difference in whether rent comes from someone’s pocket or from a subsidy. We all deserve the dignity of affordable, decent housing.”
To help address the problem, the brief calls for legal remedies to prevent rental assistance discrimination and notes that some jurisdictions have seen positive outcomes resulting from these prohibitions. For instance, jurisdictions such as Washington, D.C., that have adopted prohibitions on discrimination against HUD housing vouchers have seen higher voucher utilization rates.
“We serve hardworking, primarily local residents who cannot afford to remain in Hawai?i without a voucher,” said Brandee Menino, HICH member and Advocacy Committee chair of Bridging the Gap. “As purchases by out-of-state investors have increased, discrimination has reached a boiling point, leaving people who are employed and ready to move into housing with no option but to stay in a homeless shelter or on the street, praying they find a home before their voucher expires.
“We do work with landlords who keep coming back because they have positive experiences renting to Section 8 tenants, and I think if more landlords gave these folks a chance, many would feel the same way.”
The Hawaii Interagency Council on Homelessness is an advisory body, modeled after the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, that serves as a statewide homelessness planning and policy development entity with broad representation from State and County government and the community. For more information about the Hawaii Interagency Council on Homelessness and State efforts to address homelessness, please visithttps://homelessness.hawaii.gov.