LIHUE —Residents recently received a letter from the Kauai County Housing Agency, requesting them to fill out a 20-question survey in order for the agency to obtain data on what Kauai families are actually paying for rent.
“Over the past few years, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has set the ‘Fair Market Rent’ for Kauai County at levels that we believe is below what our residents actually pay,” the survey reads. “The ‘Fair Market Rents’ are used by HUD to set rent pricing for the Section 8 Rental Assistance Programs. We believe Kauai is unique and our actual rent exceeds HUD’s analysis of ‘Fair Market Rents.’ Therefore, the Housing Agency will be requesting an increase from HUD to the ‘Fair Market Rents’ for the Section 8 program.”
According to HUD’s website, Fair Market Rents determine the eligibility of rental housing units for the Section 8 Housing Assistance Payments program.
“Section 8 Rental Certificate program participants cannot rent units whose rents exceed the FMRs,” the HUD website reads. “FMRs also serve as the payment standard used to calculate subsidies under the Rental Voucher program.”
The housing agency contracted SMS Research &Marketing Services, headquartered in Honolulu, to perform the housing survey.
“We’re just receiving the responses now. We haven’t even run tables or anything off of it yet,” said Faith Rex, vice president of SMS Research.
Rex added that the survey is islandwide, and once the data is compiled from the responses, the information will be submitted to the county, which in turn will submit it to HUD.
According to the housing agency, the data collected is confidential, and the information collected will be used to support the housing agency’s request to HUD for Fair Market Rents.
Individual responses will be destroyed at the end of the project, according to the survey, which includes questions such as, “Do you do any work for your landlord so you can pay less rent?” and “Do you pay separately for water, electricity, sewage and trash and total monthly rent?”
The website rentdata.org, which tracks Fair Market Rent rates across the nation on a state-by-state basis, ranks Kauai’s Fair Market Rent rates as “very high compared to the national average. The Fair Market Rent area is more expensive than 98% of other Fair Market Rent areas. Fair Market Rent for a two-bedroom apartment on Kauai is $1,531 per month.”
The website lists the Fair Market Rent for a studio as $984, $1,210 for a one-bedroom, $1,531 for a two-bedroom, $2,044 for a three-bedroom and $2,492 for a four-bedroom.
County Housing Agency Director Steve Franco said there is evidence justifying why the housing agency believes many on Kauai are paying more than the Fair Market Rent rates.
“We have anecdotal evidence 1) Craigslist’s, 2) Kauai Buy and Sell, 3) low lease up rates with our HUD program, 4) testimonies from residents on the difficulties of finding affordable rent,” Franco said in an email to The Garden Island.
“Conducting the survey and subsequently completing the FMR Study gives us the quantitative data we can use to make our request to HUD.”