State steps up efforts to get people in need into public housing

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Four years, that’s the amount of time the Kim family has been waiting to get into public housing.

Since then they’ve moved around quite a bit, living with family and in transitional housing.

“We pretty much been moving from place to place just because everything is so expensive so we went from his grandma’s to Onela Shelter in Barber’s Point,” said Sherell Santos, public housing applicant.

Currently, Sherell and her family live in Maili.

They’re hoping to move closer to town since Sherell works in Waikiki.

“It’s been really hard. It’s been really difficult to go back and forth with the gas prices,” said Santos.

Saturday the Kim ohana was one of nearly six-hundred families notified they’re eligible to take the next step in securing a vacant public housing unit.

“I was excited because we’ve been waiting since 2009, and we haven’t really gotten any responses. We just call and check in to see if our application is still active so it was kind of like relieving to know that something is happening towards that,” said Santos.

In the past year and a half, the state public housing authority has made improvements to speed up the process of getting families off the wait list and into homes.

“It’s no longer you wait for the tenant to leave and then you inform us, right now the minute the unit becomes available all the departments are aware of it,” said Hakim Ouansafi, State Public Housing Authority executive director.

Ouansafi says they’ve become more efficient by reducing the time a unit stays vacant from 168 days to 12 days and by reducing the amount of back rent owed to the state by more than $2.5 million.

“We just been enforcing the rules you owe us rent we expect to get it and if you don’t get it we find another tenant,” said Ouansafi. “Before the end of this year we will be at 98 percent occupancy which makes us a high performance agency first time in many years very happy about that.”

As for the Kim ohana they’re excited to become Honolulu residents soon.

“My kids gone have one room and a shelter over their heads,” said Shone Kim, public housing applicant.

“More secure for my family we don’t have to go back and forth,” said Santos.

The state public housing authority says more than 200 families will move into homes over the next two months with some as early as next week.

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