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Coalition urges increased protections for renters

HONOLULU (AP) — A coalition of Hawaii nonprofit organizations and social service agencies has urged state lawmakers to enact widespread protections for renters in anticipation of a wave of evictions because of the economic impact of the coronavirus.

The group of more than 50 organizations said it expects evictions to occur after the $600 weekly federal supplement increase to state unemployment payments expires at the end of July, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Sunday.

The coalition that includes the Office of Hawaiian Affairs urged the state Legislature to address the predicted rental crisis when lawmakers convene beginning Monday.

The organizations called for policies to minimize the threat of mass evictions across the islands — including the extension of a state prohibition on evictions for months after the pandemic ends, a landlord subsidy program, and a tax credit or deduction for landlords based on reductions in rent.

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates close to 20 percent of Hawaii’s households have been unable to make housing payment or have little or no confidence they can make upcoming rent or mortgage payments.

The University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization and the Hawaii Budget and Policy Center found between 40,000 and 45,000 renter households will likely experience unemployment by July 31 without receiving rental assistance to make up for the $600 weekly federal unemployment payment they are set to lose.

About 21,500 of those renter households will be at risk of eviction because their income portion earmarked for housing will rise by 10 percent or more, while 7,500 will experience an increase of 30 percent or more, the analysis said.

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