Housing is a Human Right Honolulu Tenants Union

Rent and Mortgage Moratorium A demand to our governor

HONOLULU, Hawaiʻi -- April 7th, 2020- The Poʻo of the Hawaiʻi Community Bail Fund, the Democratic Socialists of Honolulu (DSH), UNITE HERE Local 5, the UH graduate student workers of Academic Labor United (ALU), and The Honolulu Tenants Union (HOTU), a coalition of organizations and renters in the City & County of Honolulu who believe housing is a human right, demand that Governor Ige and Mayor Caldwell immediately stop rent and mortgage collections during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jack Slater, HOTU organizing committee member, said: “Right now there is already a moratorium on federally-backed mortgages from the Federal Housing Administration, USDA, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, when borrowers ask for forbearance from their mortgage servicer. This means that those borrowers who are also collecting rent are getting free money and harming struggling renters who need that money for basic needs during this pandemic and economic crisis. The Governor’s current emergency proclamation does not do enough to protect renters. All renters and mortgage borrowers must be protected. We must guarantee housing as a human right.”

According to the Hawaiʻi Department of Labor, 160,000 people, or nearly one-quarter of Hawaiʻi’s workers, filed for unemployment last month. “Thousands more working-class people will lose their jobs in the coming months and will be unable to afford their rent during the pandemic. It’s vital to public health that the Governor and Mayor enact moratoriums on rent and mortgage collections.” said Travis Acton, HOTU organizing committee member.

Acton continued: “It is crucial not only that we stop collecting these rents and mortgages, but that at the end of the crisis renters will not owe past-due rent to their landlords, which would be a crushing blow to already-struggling families in the state.”

Kim Coco Iwamoto, Owner of Affordable Quality Apartment Rentals (dba AQuA Rentals, LLC) said: "This pandemic gives everyone an opportunity to do the right thing: taxpayers have bailed out banks, banks have helped homeowners with mortgage forbearances, and landlords can pass that support on to their tenants. This pandemic exposes how interconnected we are: our tenants may also be our first-responders, our food preparers, or our sanitation workers - we need to make sure everyone can afford to make choices to keep themselves healthy, and protect the health of our community. Being houseless, being stressed out about slipping into homelessness, or going deeper into debt, jeopardizes people’s immune systems and prolongs the pandemic."

Mikey Inouye of the Coronacare Hawaiʻi organization agrees: ”We are working to help triage issues for residents through our new Coronacare solidarity network and it is vital to keep people in their homes at this time. No one should have to go without a home during this pandemic. Housing is a human right.”

Amy Perruso, Teacher and Hawaii State Representative, said: “Now, when essential workers are under incredible stress, is the time to provide relief in the form of a temporary rent and mortgage freeze. These are some of our lowest paid workers, and they deserve the support of a financial buffer right now."

The Honolulu Tenants Union organizing committee asks that residents who believe that housing is a human right call the Governor’s office at (808) 586-0034 and Mayor Caldwell at (808) 768-4141 and demand rent and mortgage moratoriums during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Callers should talk about these points:

  1. Over 160,000 people have already filed for unemployment during the month of March. Hundreds of thousands more will be unable to afford their rent before this epidemic is over. (source)
  2. Over 14 thousand people have already signed a petition demanding that the collection of rents and mortgages in Hawaii stop during this pandemic. (source)
  3. Other states and cities have already enacted these measures, such as the Seattle and San Francisco City Councils (source)

The Honolulu Tenants Union is a group of renters on Oahu who believe that housing is a human right and are working to organize others for legislative change and solidarity against the out-of-control cost of living and genuinely abysmal quality of rental apartments. Renters can find resources and join the Tenants Union at hnltenantsunion.org

Coronacare Hawaiʻi is a solidarity network built to meet the needs of our communities during the COVID-19 crisis. Visit them online at coronacarehi.org

Local 5 represents approximately 11,500 workers throughout Hawaii who work in the hospitality, health care and food service industries and is an affiliate of UNITE HERE, an international union that represents over 300,000 workers throughout the U.S. and Canada. For more information, visit www.unitehere5.org

The Hawaiʻi Community Bail Fund is a nonprofit with the goal of ending cash bail. Money bail for pretrial detention is demonstrably counterproductive, making its persistence punitive and unconstitutional. Like the rest of the criminal justice system, it disproportionately affects Hawaiians and other people of color. Members of our community who are held in pretrial detention for no reason other than lack of access to money lose jobs, housing, and parental rights every day – this fact is an abomination of justice and must end. hawaiicommunitybailfund.org

Academic Labor United (ALU) is an organization fighting for a union by and for graduate student workers of the University of Hawaiʻi. ALU commits itself to union democracy, the right to collective bargaining, the fight for improved working conditions, the defense of academic freedom, and the pursuit of justice. ALU and the 1250+ graduate workers are currently working to win the right to unionize and collectively bargain. Since the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, ALU has established a hardship fund, a resource page, and a mutual aid group for the UH community. academiclaborunited.org

The Democratic Socialists of Honolulu is a local of the Democratic Socialists of America. We believe that both the economy and society should be run democratically to meet human needs, not to make profits for a few. We are a political and activist organization, not a party; through campus- and community-based chapters DSA members use a variety of tactics, from legislative change to direct action, to fight for reforms that empower working people. dsahonolulu.org

Press Contact for Honolulu Tenants Union:

Jack Slater, zjs@zacharyjackslater.com