Hawaii 2011 - Housing
Once homeless, Jamielynn Aana now has a home for herself
Finding Permanent Homes for the Homeless
Even as the economy slowly improved last year in Hawaii, the number of sheltered homeless people on Oahu increased 4 percent to 5,678, according to the annual Homeless Service Utilization Report.
The same survey found that another 4,013 homeless were unsheltered.
That increase puts extra pressure on a nonprofit called Housing Solutions Inc., which provides transitional housing for the homeless. In the past 10 years, HSI has placed 2,971 people in transitional housing and counseled them in everyday skills like opening a bank account and paying the rent.
“Somewhere between 90 and 95 percent of all the people we handle end up in permanent housing,” says HSI president Terry Brooks, whose cell phone is never turned off. “Transitional housing is very stable and effective. Essentially, we’re retraining people, helping them stabilize and save money for down payments, and then connecting them to permanent housing.”
Single mom Jamielynn Aana, 25, spent months living with family, friends and co-workers after her mother lost their apartment and she couldn’t afford her own. “I stayed in about 16 different homes. I was going from place to place, week by week, but I pretty much exhausted all my resources.”
After three weeks at the Institute for Human Services shelter with her babies, and then a night sleeping on a sidewalk, space opened up at Vancouver House, a transitional shelter.
“You have your own bathroom, your own bedroom,” she says. “… It was truly like a miracle.”
Once in a shelter, Aana says, your name gets bumped up the list for help through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. After six sheltered months, staff counseling and a period of low rent, she found a permanent home in a low-income development – the first home of her own. With a HUD subsidy, it’s affordable – $220 a month in rent – 30 percent of her income as a part-time tour guide.
“I cried when they told me I had it,” says Aana, who now dreams of one day going to college. “I can see the ocean from my house. It’s so beautiful.”
Hawaii had twice as many homeless per 100,000 people as the national average in 2007. And the problem continues to evolve and will likely worsen.
“Right now, we’re seeing a big increase with the Micronesian elderly here for medical reasons,” says Keala Souza, director of program services for Housing Solutions Inc. “They don’t have money to begin with, so they’re on our welfare system.”
After 15 years of renting, Jon-David Thomas Crawford took
Turning renters into owners
Despite the slow economy, Hawaii’s already high home prices are creeping up again. Only low interest rates are offering some added hope for those who have never owned a home, like 34-year-old Navy Chief Petty Officer Jon-David Thomas Crawford.
“I’ve been paying rent for 15 years and I get subsidized by the Navy, so when the market dropped I said, ‘This is silly … I don’t want to rent anymore,’’ says Crawford. “And with a 4.25 percent interest rate, that’s probably the time to buy. ... Now, I get to cut my own grass. I get to go into my man cave. I’m thrilled.”
Compared to the nation as a whole, Hawaii has a lower percentage of owner-occupied homes and a far higher percentage of people spending 30 percent or more of their income on living accommodations.
In December 2010, the median price of a single-family home on Oahu was $587,000, according to the Honolulu Board of Realtors. The national median price last year was $177,900, the National Association of Realtors reports.
“People who bought a home 10 years ago in Hawaii are happy with their purchase because they’ve made money and it’s still worth more than they paid for it,” says Brian Benton, president of the Honolulu Board of Realtors and a principal broker with Prudential Locations.
But Benton acknowledges it’s tough for a young couple to break into the market. To buy a condo at a mid-range price of $310,000 takes a joint monthly income of at least $3,000, assuming 20 percent down, good credit, a mortgage rate of 4.875 percent and no other debt.
“First-time buyers we always assume are 26-year-olds,” says Benton. “But we’re seeing first-time buyers in their 40s and 50s. They’ve been renting all their lives but with lower interest rates right now they can qualify for properties.”
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