New conviction-eviction law for public housing

Local News

People — convicted of serious crimes — allowed to remain in taxpayer-funded public housing projects — has been a source of frustration for taxpayers.

That will no longer be a burden.

As with many laws, this one is based on a real-life situation — the president of a public housing tenant association — was convicted of stealing $1,400 from the association.

He was evicted — but the state Supreme Court overturned it — allowing the man continued residency.

State Representative John Mizuno is one of the law’s authors.

“There is not a taxpayer in the state of Hawaii, that would say ‘It’s okay if you live in public housing, to commit fraudulent crimes, to embezzle $1,400, to commit domestic violence, to commit drug offenses, or assault on other people.’ I think anybody that does break the law, especially if they’re in public housing, they need to be evicted. And this law does that.”

The law has been years in the making, after the state lost a previous eviction attempt.

Mizuno remembers the incident. “You had a legal conviction, a person who embezzled, basically stole, $1,400 from the State Public Housing Authority, so legally, by the court system, he was convicted of a felony. Then when they evicted him, the Supreme Court ruled that it was an improper eviction.”

The eviction-conviction law became law in July.

Today, the Hawaii Public Housing Authority released a statement saying:

“When a tenant commits a felony related to the HPHA’s property or its employees, or commits a felony related to the Authority’s funds, that person abuses their privilege as a tenant of the HPHA”

We asked about innocent spouses and children of felons facing eviction — whether they could ask to remain in the units.

The authority’s statement says family members will be heard:

“All HPHA eviction hearings deal with unique circumstances, and that HPHA public housing evictions are handled by an eviction board of three members of the public, where one member must be a public housing resident.”

Mizuno says he doesn’t want the public to “vilify” public housing.

“I think public housing has an important segment of society helps, people get back on their feet, I like it so long as it’s transitional, to get that person to independence, and eventually they can maybe leave public housing and get an affordable rental unit, or buy a house.”

The housing authority says there have been no evictions under the new law — yet.

And again — if the person whose name is on the lease is evicted — the rest of the family can ask to stay.

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