Rent on island getting out of reach

Tight market, high rates hit the poorest

The number of renter households on Kaua’i jumped by over 16 percent between 1999 and last year, and a combined hourly wage of more than $17 is needed for a household to afford the $885 fair market monthly rental on a one-bedroom unit.

If one can be found in today’s tight market, that is.

Things remain tough for Kaua’i renter households – numbering almost 8,000 last year, up from 6,713 in 1999. Average incomes ranging from $35,400 to $61,680 a year are necessary to afford rental units from one to four bedrooms in size.

Based on those figures, it takes more than 40 percent of a family’s adjusted income to afford a one-bedroom unit, 63 percent for a two-bedroom place (fair market rent of $1,077), 101 percent for a three-bedroom place ($1,425) and 109 percent for a four-bedroom home ($1,542).

It’s no wonder the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s annual report on income and rental housing costs is entitled “Out of Reach: America’s Growing Wage-Rent Disparity.”

In that report, Hawai’i ranks as the fifth least-affordable state in the union for renters, requiring an average family income of $16.65 an hour (over three times the minimum wage of $5.25) to afford rent.

With a minimum-wage job, a single-paycheck household wage earner needs to work 130 hours a week to afford a one-bedroom place on Kaua’i, up to 226 hours a week for a four-bedroom rental.

The national report reveals that in no single jurisdiction in the United States can a minimum-wage worker afford the fair market rent for homes in their communities.

Based on the nationally accepted standard that households spend no more than 30 percent of adjusted income (after taxes) on rent, that leaves the poorest of the poor on Kaua’i only being able to afford to spend $424 a month on rent.

Federal, state and county programs are targeting these families and individuals with rental subsidies that make it at least affordable for them to have a roof over their heads.

Staff Writer Paul C. Curtis can be reached at mailto:pcurtis@pulitzer.net or 245-3681 (ext. 224).

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