AIEA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) -
There are 260 apartments at Puuwai Momi public housing. Starting next year the tenants will pay their own electricity bills. Shental Naeole isn't worried about that. But she is worried about a deposit her low-income family has to pay to Hawaiian Electric.
"Our deposit is $954," she said.
Carlene Beavers lives on a fixed income. Her HECO deposit is $700.
"It's going to be very hard because my income is $700 a month," she said.
The deposits are due in to the electric company next month. HECO based them on two months of a tenant's electricity use. Keith Nunes questions the calculation.
"Thirteen hundred dollars down payment. That's what HECO told me," he said.
"We understand this may be new for some customers and we will make every effort to help them through the process," HECO spokesman Darren Pai said.
The Hawaii Public Housing Authority's Hakim Ouansafi said the deposit is insurance in case a tenant misses a monthly payment, and some deposits may be reduced.
"There are some tenants who will be paying zero deposit because they are enrolled in the automatic payment through their checking account," he said.
But Nunes said not everyone will be able to do that.
"The deposit is what's going to kill a lot of people," he said.
Beavers said it's especially tough because of the impact it will have for families during the holidays.
"No thanksgiving. No Christmas. It's hard," she said.
The Housing Authority was paying for electricity at all 85 of its housing complexes. So far 50 have converted to tenant payments. Puuwai Momi and 34 other complexes are transitioning. Ouansafi believes if tenants pay their own electricity bills they'll watch their kilowatt usage. He said it could save taxpayers up to $5 million a year.
"I think it's extremely fair. Extremely fair to our tenant and the taxpayer," he said.
Shental Naeole agrees, but said finding $900 in her family's meager earnings is a big stretch.
"I was devastated! I was like, 'I don't know how we're going to do this.' We're trying to pool whatever we can together,' she said.
Many residents at Puuwai Momi are feeling the same sticker shock.