A picture of the affordable housing crisis: Hundreds line up just to get on waiting list for rentals

Hundreds hoped to land spot on affordable housing wait list for Chinatown building
Published: Apr. 27, 2017 at 8:51 PM HST|Updated: Apr. 28, 2017 at 12:39 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - More than 1,000 people stood in line in Chinatown on Thursday to get on a waiting list for an affordable apartment.

The waiting list for units at the Maunakea Tower hasn't been open for a decade. And in a typical year, only about a dozen new families move in.

Those odds didn't deter those who waited under the hot sun Thursday morning to snag an application for the list. The line snaked down the sidewalk of Maunakea Street, around the corner onto Beretania Street, stopping near the bus stop by Smith Street.

Thursday's turnout emphasizes the severity of the affordable housing crisis in Hawaii.

"You can't beat this, you can't beat it," said Ophelia Stringfield, who has lived at the Maunakea Tower for 41 years. She and her family know the struggle to live in paradise too well. Her eldest daughter moved to the mainland where living costs are more affordable.

"Cost of living is very high. And the rent here, it goes according to your income. So you meet the limit of the bracket, you move in, you're good," Stringfield said.

Maunakea Tower is a Section 8 building guided by Housing and Urban Development income rules, which were updated this month.

The first priority is for those with "extremely low income," which limits income in Honolulu to $22,000 for one person and $31,400 for a family of four. The next level is categorized as "very low," which limits $36,650 for a single person and $52,300 for four people. HUD defines "low income" as $58,600 for a single, and $83,700 for a family of four people.

Salt Lake resident Wai Low picked up an application for his son.

"He's doing his master's now for secondary education and want to teach for the DOE. He's staying with me now and girlfriend, so I just maybe have chance for him to get affordable housing," Low said.

Low was one of the lucky ones. Sandalwood Management printed 1,000 applications and ran out in less than an hour. Those who didn't get an application were told to return on Friday.

The final day to get on the wait list is Friday from 9 a.m. to noon.

"With 380 apartments, Maunakea is a large building, but vacancies are unusual. In a typical year, we are able to welcome only about a dozen families into our community," said Steven Lora, Director of Marketing for Sandalwood Management.

Lora's advice to would-be residents is to submit your applications quickly.

"The applications are time-stamped when we receive them, in accordance with HUD guidelines. As vacancies arise, we will call the next qualified person on the list. At the rate we are receiving applications, a difference of a couple of hours in submitting an application could make the difference between a couple of years of waiting for an affordable home." Lora said.

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