More than 300 Oahu families were finally getting a chance to have a home on Saturday.
It's the state's effort to provide affordable housing for those who need it most. It’s an opportunity some have been waiting for, for nearly a decade.
Steve Palsis had been waiting in line at the Housing Authority office since 7 a.m. Saturday.
But it’s just a fraction of time compared to how long he's been waiting for low-rent housing.
“We’ve been applying for almost 10 years,” said Palsis, as he stood in line with his wife and two children.
He and his family are among the 380 applicants out of 10,000 on the wait list to make it through the initial screening.
Palsis said he applied before but didn’t qualify in the past because of his income. But what he made wasn’t enough to afford rent in Honolulu. To finally to be eligible for low-rent housing, was great news.
“It was so frustrating, but it’s worked out good,” said Palsis.
Those in line are those who need housing the most. They're either homeless, victims of domestic violence or being involuntarily displaced.
“We start with those because they’re already on the street and we’re trying to get them some safety, something sanitary,” said Hakim Ouansafi, Hawaii Public Housing Authority executive director.
Richard Iosis got his eligibility letter last week.
“Oh, that made me really happy,” said Iosis, clutching his letter. “It’s been a long time. We’ve been waiting on that wait list.”
Iosis and his family moved from the Marshall Islands so his wife could get medical treatment for a thyroid condition.
They've been living in shelters in Kapolei and Maili for the last three and a half years. Ouansafi said his agency has been able to improve its system and is now able to refurbish units much faster than before. What used to take 160 days to renovate now only takes 12 days, making more units available and giving more folks hope for the future.
But with only 6,500 units available statewide, inventory is limited. The Public Housing Authority has $70 million from the state to spend on renovating units. Another 200 units will be available within the next 90 days, with an additional 300 units ready by the end of the year.
“We just continue on getting a small chunk at a time until we hopefully see the tunnel. We don’t see the light yet, but we can at least build the tunnel,” said Ouansafi.