Wednesday, January 28, 2009


THIS IS NOT MY BEAUTIFUL DOGHOUSE: When we first saw Anne Punohu's efforts to stop discrimination against those receiving federal HUD Section 8 housing subsidies we worried that it would just end up being just another valiant attempt by a dedicated community activist destined for oblivion.

But it did spur us to finalize a story we’d essentially been working on for almost 15 years on some of the trials and tribulations for both Section 8 clients and participating landlords

And because of Anne’s efforts and coverage not just here but in local and Honolulu newspapers, not only have we heard from a landlord who changed their mind about the program recipients and is going to seek out a deserving family for their rental, Kaua`i and Ni`ihau state Senator Gary Hooser has introduced a bill to “relating to discrimination” that would “prohibit discrimination based on lawful source of income in real estate transactions, including advertising available rental units.”

“I want to express my deep gratitude to Senator Gary Hooser’s office and staff, and in particular the Senator himself for helping us with this worthy cause”. said Punohu. “We hope that all concerned will send testimony in on this issue, and help to get SB456 passed.

According to Punohu the National Economic and social Rights Initiative will be sending testimony in support of the bill through its Campaign to Restore National Housing Rights
Senate bill 456 has been referred to both the Committee on Commerce and Consumer Protection and Committee on Judiciary and Government Operations.

The “landlord” we heard from was one who called right after our piece grumbling about “the type of people” who receive the housing subsidies for the elderly, disabled and working poor.

But when she called us again it was to tell us that after talking to others and calling the county housing agency that administers the program, she decided that it just might be a great way to help a deserving family and at the same time insure that the rent is paid on time- even early- every month.

The bill would go about banning discrimination in housing by amending HRS 515-2 to add “source of income” to the existing list of classes of persons protected against discrimination in housing. It currently protects against prejudice due to “gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, color, religion, marital status, familial status, ancestry, disability, age, or human immunodeficiency virus infection”.

The preamble to the bill says:

The legislature finds that low-income individuals have an extremely difficult time finding affordable rentals in Hawaii. This situation is made more frustrating when housing vacancy advertisements discourage people from applying by advertising "no section 8 accepted". At this time, in the State of Hawaii, the law does not prohibit discrimination based on lawful source of income. However, thirteen other states, including California and Oregon, have prohibited this type of income discrimination. Renters who participate in government assistance programs, such as Housing Choice Vouchers, also known as, section 8, should have an equal opportunity to find housing. The purpose of this Act is to prohibit discrimination based on lawful source of income in real estate transactions, including advertising available rental units.

It also goes on to say that

Nothing in section 515-3 shall be deemed to prohibit a person from determining the ability of a potential buyer or renter to pay a purchase price or rent by:

(1) Verifying, in a commercially reasonable manner, the source and amount of income of the potential buyer or renter; or

(2) Evaluating, in a commercially reasonable manner, the stability, security, and credit worthiness of the potential buyer or renter or any source of income of the potential buyer or renter.

The prohibition against discrimination based on source of income shall not prevent a person from refusing to consider income derived from any criminal activity.

Currently the bill is being heard in the Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee and testimony should be addressed to Chair: Senator Baker, at, and Vice Chair, Senator Ige. at