The Hawaii Public Housing Authority is opening its waitlist for federal housing choice vouchers — better known as Section 8 — for the first time in four years.

The process starts on Thursday at 8 a.m. Renters can apply to join the waitlist online until Monday at 4:30 p.m. Click here to sign up and click here for more information.

Only Oahu residents who currently have a lease agreement are eligible during this round of applications. Hawaii counties also run their own separate Section 8 programs. Tenants need their landlords’ approval in order to participate, and the landlords will need to be willing to provide tax information and allow their units to be inspected.

Tenants also need to meet the following income requirements:

The opening of the waitlist comes as thousands of Hawaii residents struggle with unemployment and underemployment due to economic shutdowns prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic. About 20,000 people applied for state rental assistance, so many that the state stopped accepting applications.

Signing up doesn’t guarantee getting on the waitlist, and being waitlisted doesn’t guarantee access to rental subsidies. The Housing Authority will use a computerized lottery system to choose 3,000 applicants who sign up to get on the waitlist. Of those, the Housing Authority expects to serve 750 families.

The Housing Authority also scheduled a series of Zoom sessions to provide interpretation services in multiple languages. Marshallese is scheduled for Thursday morning; Cantonese, Mandarin and Vietnamese are scheduled for Thursday afternoon. Chuukese is scheduled for Friday morning; Korean is scheduled for Friday afternoon. Click here for the Zoom meeting information.

In a press release, Gov. David Ige and Housing Authority’s executive director Hakim Ouansafi called on landlords to participate in the program. Hawaii landlords have sometimes been reluctant to accept renters with Section 8 vouchers. Hawaii law allows landlords to discriminate against tenants with housing vouchers.

“I urge landlords to work with us to keep people who have lost their jobs or are underemployed because of the pandemic in their homes,” Ige said in a statement.

“This is a community effort and the HPHA is calling on all landlords in the community to assist us in leasing rental units to needy families,” Ouansafi said.

The Housing Authority said more than 12,000 families applied last time the wait list was open in 2016.

People with disabilities who are seeking reasonable accommodations should contact the Housing Authority before Thursday at 808-832-6040 or hpha.section8waitlist@hawaii.gov.

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