Whopping rent hike reduced at low-income apartments

Joy Shuler
Joy Shuler
Alvin Wong
Alvin Wong

By Ben Gutierrez - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Residents at a low-income housing complex in the Liliha area thought they were going to be hit with a huge rent hike. Now, it looks like the increase will be a lot smaller.

Many tenants at the Keola Hoonanea apartment complex are elderly or disabled. Their rents hasn't gone up for at least five years. So a lot of them got very upset when they learned that their rents were going up. Way up.

"It came all at once. In one letter. It's going up 48 percent," said longtime Keola Hoonanea resident Joy Shuler. "It came all of a sudden. It wasn't, hey, you know, in a period of six months we're going to have to do this and do that, and it will naturally increase your rent."

The apartment's management says residents may have reacted too quickly to the hike, which was meant to make up for inflation and higher costs, but added that they have made their point.

"We have a 120 day period to receive tenant comments," said Keola Hoonanea board president Alvin Wong. "So the notice was sent out to the tenants to receive those comments. We understand that it's a significant increase, and we hear them loud and clear."

Management spent Friday meeting with residents to tell them that their rent is not going up 48 percent. At least not all at once.

"We understand that it's going from 48 percent down to 15 percent," Shuler said. "Now that's a big drop to get in a couple of meetings."

The new proposal actually calls for an initial rent hike of ten to 15 percent, with annual increases tied to increases in the cost of living index. Part of the hike will pay for a needed renovation of the building, which hasn't had a major upgrade in nearly four decades. The renovation will include more energy efficient utilities.

"If we install these energy saving devices, we can reduce our energy costs anywhere between 30 and 40 percent. We'll pass those savings on to the tenants," Wong said.

The management will go back to the drawing board to make the numbers work. They will also go back to HUD, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, with a new rent proposal.

"We're going to go back to HUD and say we can't increase it by that amount initially. We may have to spread it out over a number of years to make it easier on the tenants," Wong said.

Residents currently pay anywhere from $410 to $515 dollars a month. Under the old proposal, rents would have gone up by $200 or more.

It will still be a while before any rent hike will take effect. Residents still have 120 days to comment on the new proposal, which then would have to be approved by HUD.

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