‘Keeping Hawaiʻi Housed’ report outlines strategies to reduce evictions
In a newly released report detailing the high, community-wide cost of evictions, the Hawaiʻi Budget & Policy Center explores the major public and social costs of evictions on low-income families.
The “Keeping Hawaiʻi Housed” report also includes key interventions made to reduce the incidence of eviction during the COVID-19 pandemic and potential policy interventions at the state level that can reduce the incidence of eviction for Hawaiʻi renters going forward.
“Safe, stable, affordable housing is a cornerstone of good health, economic prosperity and educational attainment,” said Will White, director of the Hawaiʻi Budget & Policy Center. “However, far too many Hawaiʻi renters are at risk of losing their housing through eviction because of the significant costs associated with housing. This widespread instability is fueling the state’s homelessness crisis and increasing rates of outmigration to the continent.”
Currently median rents in Hawaiʻi are hovering around $2,500 per month, a 12.6 percent increase since 2019. In 2021, 58 percent of the state’s occupied rental units were spending more than 30 percent of their household income on rent. This burden makes it more difficult for working families to afford the high costs of food, transportation, healthcare and education.
“Keeping Hawaiʻi Housed” builds on the success of Hawaiʻi’s COVID-19 eviction protections. It recommends:
- Creating a permanent rent relief program coupled with mediation services that can resolve rent disputes before they enter the courts.
- Replicating the pre-trial eviction mediation requirements implemented by Hawaiʻi’s Act 57 pilot program.
- Implementing stronger renter protections in the form of a just cause eviction law that will provide additional security for renters in Hawaiʻi’s high-cost rental market.
Current legislation moving through the Hawaiʻi State Legislature would implement the first two recommendations in the report. HB1439 HD2 would establish and appropriate funds for a pre-litigation mediation pilot program and require landlords to participate in mediation before filing an action for summary possession. The measure also creates and appropriates funds for an emergency rent relief program.
“Lack of stable housing is often associated with poor health outcomes, including higher levels of chronic stress, increased incidence of chronic conditions like obesity and heart disease, and higher incidences of adverse childhood experiences for families with children,” said Francoise Culley-Trotman, CEO of AlohaCare. “These outcomes have significant financial and social costs that are borne by us all.”
To prevent a wave of evictions that could have occurred due to financial hardship from the COVID-19 pandemic, authorities at the federal, state and local levels across the country enacted eviction moratoriums that kept millions of renters housed during the heights of the pandemic. Billions of dollars have been invested in emergency rental assistance through congressional appropriation.
But nearly all those protections have either expired, or have had their funds significantly spent.
As the COVID-19 renter protections and assistance programs evaporate, renters in Hawaiʻi are once again facing increased challenges in maintaining stable housing. For working families with low incomes, this pressure is particularly acute, as a higher percentage of monthly income is required for these families to remain stably housed.
This instability increases the likelihood of experiencing a sudden loss of housing, or exposure to the many negative health outcomes associated with a lack of good housing.
In addition to rent relief and landlord-tenant mediation, “Keeping Hawaiʻi Housed” also notes Hawaiʻi could add existing “Just Cause Eviction” laws in other jurisdictions to further strengthen tenants’ protections and limit the harm caused by evictions.