Lava evacuations impact Hawaii island’s rental, homeless housing
685 lava victims have contacted the homeless shelter in Puna for help
HILO, Hawaii (AP) — Hawaii officials have reached a crossroad between providing shelter for volcano eruption evacuees and holding steady on a push to regulate rental and homeless housing.
Democrat state Rep. Joy San Buenaventura of Puna wrote Gov. David Ige on Tuesday, asking him to issue three executive orders to alleviate the housing crisis in wake of the Kilauea volcano eruptions.
San Buenaventura is requesting a waiver of the transient accommodations tax until a month after the emergency declaration has ended for evacuees seeking short-term rentals, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported.
She’s also asking that evacuee tenants be allowed to waive certain landlord-tenant code provisions so they could rent vacant houses foreclosed upon or going through foreclosure.
While at the islands’ largest homeless shelter, Brandee Menino, head of Hope Services Hawaii, said the shelter has expanded to meet the needs of hundreds of evacuees who’ve become homeless.
So far, 685 lava victims have contacted Neighborhood Place of Puna for help, Hawaii News Now reported.
San Buenaventura is also urging the governor to sign a Senate bill that would establish an “ohana zone program,” a $50 million grant to provide basic housing needs in addition to social services, health care and transportation for the homeless. The Legislature passed the bill earlier this year.
“Now, because of the evacuees, we’ve got this houselessness problem, and it’s perfect to have this transitional housing for the evacuees,” San Buenaventura said. “Originally, the homeless advocates were against it because they thought it legalized camping. But now, we’ve worked out the language to use it to provide temporary housing for these evacuees.”
Menino said more than 200 people have reached out to Hope Service Hawaii in search of permanent housing. In response, the shelter and other nonprofits have teamed up with local realtors to create a website that links prospective renters with homes.
“If you’re searching for a housing unit you can go to that website. It will have information about all the housing that’s available in our community that we know of,” Menino said. “Also if you’re in the community and have a house or a unit that you can rent to evacuees, we are also asking you to go to that website and register your housing unit.”