Almost 200 Public Housing Units Sit Vacant While Honolulu Struggles To Find Housing For The Homeless

The tents lining Kapalama Canal and the burgeoning homeless encampment in Kakaako are stark reminders of the worsening affordable housing crisis in Hawaii, which has the highest rate of homelessness in the nation.

Despite the desperate need for low-income housing, about 175 public housing units are sitting empty, largely because state policymakers haven’t allocated enough funding and resources to renovate them.

The number of vacant units is expected to double after the Legislature severely underfunded public housing repairs this session and cut off a civil service exemption that allowed the agency to employ a a less-costly maintenance team.

The Hawaii Public Housing Authority estimates it would cost $9.5 million to renovate all 175 vacant units statewide. That’s just over $54,000 per unit, a steal given the $700,000 median home price in Honolulu.

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