STATE OF HAWAI‘I DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES LAUNCHES $2.5M RENTAL ASSISTANCE PROGRAM
Program will house FEMA-ineligible survivors of Maui wildfires for up to 12 months
News Release from Hawaii DHS, December 1, 2023
HONOLULU – Governor Josh Green, M.D., and the State of Hawai‘i Department of Human Services (DHS) today announced the launch of the Rental Assistance Program (RAP) specifically to help survivors of the Maui wildfires who are not eligible for FEMA assistance. With $2.5 million in initial funding, the innovative new RAP will make a significant difference for the many survivors still in need of housing solutions. RAP will work to secure housing for up to 12 months for eligible households by connecting them with Airbnb or through the Hawai‘i Housing Finance and Development Corporation (HHFDC) Hawai‘i Fire Relief Housing Program.
The RAP will be facilitated by community-based organization Global Empowerment Mission (GEM) in collaboration with Airbnb, and is designed to work best in Hawai‘i’s unique housing market. For households that move into short-term rentals with less than a six-month minimum duration, DHS and GEM will work to immediately book a consecutive stay to ensure housing over a longer period.
To ensure that the program is aligned with market needs and sufficient for families in need, the State of Hawai‘i has approved average monthly rates (AMRs) for properties in this program at the following rates:
0-1 Bedroom: $5,000/month
2 bedrooms: $7,000/month
3 bedrooms: $9,000/month
4 bedrooms: $11,000/month
Households that have been identified as FEMA-ineligible and are in need of housing will be contacted by DHS, GEM, or the American Red Cross through the recently launched interim Disaster Case Management Program (DCMP). Once a household is confirmed for the program, DHS and GEM will work quickly to identify potential property options through Airbnb or the HHFDC Hawai‘i Fire Relief Housing Program. Additionally, GEM will provide a food box for each household in the RAP with sufficient food for the first week in their new accommodations.
“Housing is an immediate and highly personal need for the survivors of the Maui wildfires, and particularly households that do not qualify for FEMA support. No one affected by this disaster should be prevented from receiving the assistance they need. I have directed my administration to find creative, flexible ways to help everyone,” said Governor Josh Green, M.D. “This program is a direct result of this work, and we will continue to evolve and refine our approach to best meet our community’s needs. I am pleased to announce this rental assistance program so that no one is left behind.”
A survivor who was recently placed through this program told the team, “Thank you for the help you have given us, a stable place to stay for six months. I will have my family sleeping in the same place again, and may God bless them.”
“Since the start of the fires, the Airbnb host community has played an important role in relief efforts by offering emergency, short-term stays for residents displaced by the fires,” said Airbnb Public Policy Manager Alex April. “Airbnb is proud to continue supporting Maui’s recovery by working with the state of Hawai‘i and our hosts to offer additional housing for fire survivors.”
“GEM is proud to partner with DHS and work to provide efficient and effective solutions for those most in need,” said Michael Capponi, founder and president of GEM.
“The Department of Human Services is grateful to Governor Green for continuing to prioritize supporting the survivors of the Maui wildfires. This new housing program is a novel way to enable us to help more families find places to live and to recover without having to worry about where they will move next, or high rental costs,” said DHS Deputy Director Trista Speer. “Survivors, especially those that don’t qualify for federal assistance, need the state to step in and the Department of Human Services is proud to offer this help through Governor Green’s leadership and motto for equity.”
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