Biden order to help Hawaii renters, but expert requests more assistance

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Of the 17 executive orders that President Biden signed on his first day of office Wednesday, an extension on the federal moratorium on evictions until the end of March will have a large impact on Hawaii’s propped-up rental market.

The order is longer than the state’s moratorium, which is set to expire on February 14th. So far, Governor David Ige hasn’t said if he’ll extend that date, but according to the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization, rental delinquency has quadrupled and an estimated 30,000 households are behind on rent.

That figure is despite 40% of landlords reporting participation in rental relief programs. While UHERO forecasts a slow economic recovery, Hawaii will rely heavily on assistance provided by the federal government.

“It’s really important I think the Biden administration recognizes to pair an eviction moratorium with rent assistance,” UHERO Department of Urban and Regional Planning Professor Philip ME Garboden said. “If you just have an eviction moratorium, you’re asking a lot of landlords to go for extended periods of time without any rental income, and you’re asking a lot of tenants to accrue a lot of rental debt during that period I mean if you’re three or four months behind on rent, even at the median levels in Hawaii that’s thousands and thousands of dollars.”

On Wednesday Hawaii Senator Brian Schatz said “These extensions will stop evictions for thousands of Hawai’i residents who are struggling to make their mortgage or their rent. For renters, this new order will allow the millions of dollars in emergency rental assistance for Hawai’i included in the latest COVID-19 relief bill to begin to be distributed.”

Senator Schatz lists eligibility requirements on his website.

The relief bill gives the state $200 million for rental assistance, and it can’t come soon enough.

“We need to make sure that happens as quickly as possible because every month that it doesn’t results in more back debt that we need to resolve through the through the program, and we’ve seen an existing moratorium the tenants don’t wait,” Garboden said. “They make the sacrifices they need to make to pay their rent, they put it on credit cards they borrow from family and friends.”

While more relief would force the federal Government to take on more debt, Garboden argues that it is necessary at this time.

“There needs to be some form of stopping rule right we can’t just borrow money and print infinite money, but I think the times like the last year and perhaps the next year are times where the benefits of accruing debt outweigh the long term ramifications of that debt,”

The City and County of Honolulu is set for an estimated $100 million of that rental relief. Almost all CARES Act funded $25 million of the Household Hardship Relief Fund has been distributed to help about 16,600 people, and any remaining money will be distributed by the end of the month.

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