With a long local waitlist, ‘portability’ of Section 8 vouchers from other states draws concern
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A Philadelphia woman recently bypassed the waitlist for public housing on Oahu and landed herself an apartment in Mililani.
Timekia Palmer chose to “port” to Hawaii under the federal housing voucher program.
It’s a feature under the Section 8 program called portability, allowing voucher holders in one location to move to another rental unit of their choice.
But it’s also raising eyebrows at a time when residents are facing long delays for vouchers.
In an interview with HNN, Palmer recalled her life back in the East Coast.
“Walking outside was ducking bullets and checking your car to report if it was bullets in your vehicle before you drove off,” Palmer said.
“Quite a bit of an upgrade and the unity, it’s a lot of caring people out here.”
Meanwhile, criticism erupted on social media about Palmer’s case, with people saying it’s unfair that she got a unit while others wait in line. The rules say people with a Section 8 voucher don’t need to wait.
Anton Krucky, director of Community Services for the city, noted 13 residents have “ported” out of Honolulu. “The 13 that left, some of those are funded, some are not,” said Krucky. “But the way we get our funding, whenever you have programs like this, there’s a lot of guidelines, and we’re able to manage the guidelines. So, one is we can pay the funding but then we also ... get the funding back.”
Krucky said there are currently 532 people on Oahu that are waiting for a Section 8 voucher.
The department said it processes about 100 people a month and only about half qualify.
“We go way out of our way to make it fair, the randomization to get on the list is a computer-generated thing,” said Krucky. “And then we take what the computer gave us, and we work each individual case.”
The city said they’re constantly adding and taking people off the waiting list as well as adding to the number of vouchers out there.
Krucky said about 75% of those who qualify receive housing, which is limited by the number of landlords willing to take people with vouchers.
“So, the real call to action here is to our landlords that are renters,” said Krucky. “You may have hesitations about that, but we’re talking about fair housing for all.”
“My experience has been in talking to people who have rented to Section 8 people,” said Real Estate Consultant Stephany Sofos. “It’s a hit or miss. Some people are wonderful, some people are not.”
Sofos said city and state officials should help encourage more landlords to rent to Section 8 tenants by providing more oversight and enforcement.
If tenants aren’t following the rules or maintaining the property, the city said it’ll work with landlords for restitutions.
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