Affordable housing is about to get less affordable on Oahu.  

A two-bedroom affordable unit that rented for $1,177 last year, can go up to $1,312 this year. That’s an increase of $135 a month. So what’s driving it up and what else is affected?   

The increase is triggered by the U.S. Department of Housing, which raised the limits for affordable housing. It does mean more people will qualify for it. But it comes at a higher price.

In order to be eligible for affordable housing in Honolulu last year, someone could not earn more than $86,600. This year, that’s gone up $96,000, an 11% increase. Experts say it essentially gives property owners the green light to raise the rent just as much.   

“So those people who might be living on pension income, social security. For them this has the potential to be scary,” said Gavin Thornton, co-executive director of the Hawaii Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice.

Thomas Nakayama lives at one of the affordable housing apartments at Kukui Gardens. He says any increase that high would be hard to swallow.

“If it does go up maybe just a little maybe about two percent or three, or five percent okay. But other than that it’s hard,” he said.

Thornton says it will be up to the property owner whether to phase that 11% or add it on right away. He adds that this is the largest increase in more than 20 years. On average, the yearly increase is about 2%.

The positive side of this is there are those who were making too much before who can now qualify for affordable housing. Of course it also means that they’re qualifying for the higher rent. And the same goes for people who want to buy affordable housing units.

“It’s gonna make more people eligible to purchase those affordable units but it’s gonna increase the purchase prices as well,” said Thornton.

He adds that there are many factors that determine the increase by the US Department of Housing. In general though, those who are hurt the most are the renters already struggling.

This does not affect those who live in low income or Section 8 housing. Those rents are not determined by area median income limit.