City Raising Rents on Affordable Housing

By Nakaso, Dan | Honolulu Star - Advertiser, January 16, 2017 | Go to article overview

City Raising Rents on Affordable Housing


Nakaso, Dan, Honolulu Star - Advertiser


In the first rent increases in years, the city on Feb. 1 will begin raising rates on 10 "affordable" residential properties across Oahu, including those for low-income senior citizens.

Rental prices will increase 3, 5 or 10 percent depending on income levels and properties.

Combined, Chinatown Gateway Plaza, Chinatown Manor, Harbor Village, Kanoa Apartments, Kulana Nani, Manoa Gardens Elderly, Marin Towers, Westloch Elderly, Weslake Apartments and Winston Hale account for 1,170 rental units.

The price hike that goes into effect March 1 at the city's Winston Hale apartments on River Street on the edge of Chinatown means that Esperanza Dumacder, 85, will have to come up with another $50 every month for her studio apartment when her rent jumps to $465 per month from $415.

In addition, Dumacder will have to find another $50 for a one-time payment to increase the size of her rental deposit to cover the new monthly rate.

Dumacder has no pension or retirement account, and relies on her monthly Social Security payment of $1,077 to cover all of her expenses. Now she worries the extra $50 per month will price her out of the apartment she's lived in since 1984 and could put her on the street, adding to Oahu's homeless population.

"Yes, yes I'm worried, of course," Dumacder said in her apartment Wednesday. "I'm old already, and everything just goes up, up, up, up."

Mark Chandler, director of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Honolulu Community Planning Development Office, said the city has not raised rental prices in a decade for some of its affordable properties, and could have increased rents much higher.

Some low-income, senior citizen tenants at Winston Hale who live in smaller studio apartments than Dumacder's pay $315 per month, which Chandler called "pretty low."

Under HUD guidelines the city could have imposed new rental prices "as high as $1,333 per month" for those $315 apartments, Chandler said. "The city has the right to increase rents. They're a landlord just like any landlord."

But that does not help Winston Hale tenants such as Jimmy Suyet, 81, find the extra $50 rental deposit he needs, along with the additional $50 every month to cover his higher rent that kicks in.

Suyet pays $362 per month for the studio apartment he's lived in since 1975. He survives on a monthly Social Security payment of $695 and an additional $601.27 per month from the years he spent as a purchasing agent at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard.

The higher rent "will hurt me," Suyet said. "That means there's less (money) left for me."

When he moved into Winston Hale 42 years ago, Suyet said, his monthly rent was $84. …

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