As more housing vouchers flow in, Hawaii needs landlords willing to take them

Updated: May. 11, 2021 at 6:26 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Another $152 million in federal rent and utility assistance is on its way to Hawaii ― along with $50 million in mortgage help for homeowners.

With the new funding comes a unique opportunity to potentially get an upper hand on the state’s homeless crisis.

Officials say a chunk of the federal funds will go towards housing vouchers for people living in shelters and on the street. The problem is right now there’s a shortage of landlords in Hawaii who are willing to accept government subsidies.

“It’s always tough,” said Connie Mitchell, head of the state’s largest homeless service provider. She says a lot of the units she finds advertised online don’t accept government vouchers.

With millions more in housing aid headed to Hawaii, homeless advocates are on now the hunt for hundreds of units. She’s urging landlords to give people with those subsidies a chance.

Mitchell said, “I would just like people to have an equal opportunity to get housing if they have the resources to be able to do it.”

Bonnie Gearheart is one of the lucky ones.

“Tuesday we’re doing the grand move in,” the 68-year-old said.

After spending the past several months at Tutu Bert’s, a shelter for the medically frail, she is well enough to set out on her own. In a place of her own.

It’s a little studio apartment,” Gearheart said. “Just adorable.”

The move was made possible through a program called Oahu Housing Now. Its goal is to house nearly 1,000 people by September. The project wouldn’t exist without federal pandemic aid.

Participants are awarded a voucher that covers rent for a year. But finding a landlord willing to accept it can be a challenge.

With her move complete, Gearheart says she can’t wait to begin this next chapter, telling HNN she’s overwhelmed with gratitude.

“I’m so excited,” she said. “I can’t even express how grateful I am to all of them for giving me a chance for quality of life.”

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