I was watching the news the other night at my mom’s house ( I don’t have cable at home, it’s too expensive), and there was a story about new affordable housing being built. I couldn’t help snorting in disdain at the newscast because it was such a load of BS. In Hawaii Kai, a well known wealthy suburb on the East side of Oahu, they’ve been building an “affordable housing” apartment complex.
As a Kaiser High School grad, I lived in Hawaii Kai for several years when I was younger. During high school it was in one of the many townhouse complexes built atop man-made islands that make up Koko Marina. When I was in college, Mom and I lived in two of the apartment buildings that sit against the mountains towards the back of the valley.
It was a nice suburban community, filled with three shopping centers boasting delicious eateries, fashionable shopping for tourists, and a Costco. But there was nothing about the community that screamed “affordable”. Hawaii Kai has always been known to be an affluent community, and new housing developments always catered to the upper middle class.
When I heard they were building an affordable housing rental complex in Hawaii Kai I was surprised, and suspicious. Apartments in the area always ran for much higher than those of the same square footage in other parts of the island. Basically out there you were paying for the zipcode, the bragging rights of living in a wealthier area. When I first heard about the new development three months ago, from a friend who works for the state, I had expressed interest. With the growing aggression of disease, and inability to get into Section 8 housing due to a four year long waiting list, this building might be my chance to find something more my speed. Sure it wouldn’t be up and running by the time I needed to move in August, but it would be there waiting for me in 6 months to a year when my Social Security had kicked in and I was looking for something more permanent. Or so I thought.
My friend then let me in on the real buzz about this “affordable” community. Once this apartment building was ready for occupancy, rentals would open up on the market for a limited time. Yep, you read that correctly. LIMITED. For six months, maybe a year if the state was feeling generous, apartments could be rented at the affordable housing rate. I believe the newscast said around $1200 for a studio (which really isnt that affordable). But after a certain amount of time had passed, if there were apartments still unoccupied they would be open for purchase by anyone.
Affordable housing my ass. So what the state is really saying is, well we want to show that we have made an effort to help the housing shortages but we are still greedy and want more money. And honestly, I’m just not surprised. Every time I go into town these days, especially in the Kaka’ako area, they are putting up another ridiculous high rise with apartments that no one in Hawaii can afford. Those apartments end up being high end vacation rentals or are bought by International visitors to use for their needs.
When I started looking for apartments in the last couple months when I knew I could be close to facing homelessness, a few people told me to look into the affordable housing complexes run by the state. I was given some names and phone numbers to try, and I set forth to gather info and find a place to live. Three out of the six numbers I called told me the apartments were no longer just affordable housing, that they had opened up for sale. I could be put on a waiting list for one of the rentals to open up but truth be told the lists were long. The apartments that were still completely used for affordable housing were all full up and also had long waiting lists. So I was just S.O.L.
What are people like me supposed to do? I’m on a four year waiting list for Section 8 housing, but that only means that once my four years are up I get put into the housing “lottery” that they use. There aren’t any affordable housing complexes that have rentals available, and a lot of them have sold more than half of their properties to outside buyers. I don’t have a family that has room available for me to stay in, and my mom has done the best she can to overcome all the obstacles that come with being the sole supporting parent. I’ve started a donation campaign to raise money for rent, but without verifiable income, many places are hesitant to rent to me anyway.
So basically my situation is like looking at a huge billboard that’s flicking me off. All I can do is put a smile on my face and hope for the best. Hope that I can get more donations and pay rent on an apartment, affordable or not. Hope I never have to know what it feels like to be homeless.
And laugh at Hawaii News Now when they try to pull the wool over our eyes yet again. Good thing I have sharp cutting shears for just that kind of thing.
***If you would like to help me move towards being more financially independent and not homeless, please make a donation with the link below. Every little bit helps!!