Seniors picketed Tuesday, to protest rapidly rising rent in Kaka'ako.

Elderly residents of Na Lei Hulu Kupuna and their supporters took to the streets in protest after their building owner Mark Development announced major increases in rent for the affordable housing project.

"It is affordable for who? Maybe for people who are still employees, but these are people who are 80, 90 years old that live on Social Security checks," said resident Marlene Morris.

"My rent is $400 a month, now they are going to raise it up to $773 or something like that," added Violet Acedillo.

After seniors lined the street, Mark Development employees explained the reason behind the big increase in rent.

"This new increase is because we acquired the building and it is old. There is a lot of deferred maintenance. The maintenance could not be done at the rents they were paying of $675," said Mark Development Operations Manager Ashley Reyes.

"I pay $675, and it is going up to $916," said resident Jane Smith.

The rent increase will go toward a laundry list of improvements that need to be made to the building, including fixing up the laundry room.

"There will be new appliances for residents, new flooring, renovating the lobby area and our laundry room. We're also going to fence in lanai on the community room," said Mark Development Project Manager Max Lindsey.

Mark Development received a multi-million dollar grant from the city to fix up the aging building and grounds, and wants residents to find subsidies to help them with their rent increase.
"We lost the rental subsidy, and that paid a portion of their rent, so the owner is going to subsidize their rent for the rest of the year. It is an effort to get tenants to budget and seek other options of subsidies or other assistance programs, that could make up the difference in the rent increase," added Reyes.

"They needs to get the facts straight before they assume the tenants can apply for food stamps, section 8," stated Morris.

Reyes said the rent increase won't happen until the beginning of 2019, but residents are most concerned about what will happen when the rents finally change.

"How are they going to pay the difference? They are going to end up in the park with a tent," stated Smith.

"We know raising the rent is inevitable, but why can't they raise it like the rest of the affordable housing projects in the area? Others raised it 2.5% not 50%," said Morris.

Many other affordable senior housing projects already have rents closer to allowed levels of nearly $1100 per month for a studio apartment. That is based on the person having 60% of the area median income or around $44,000 a year in Social Security benefits, pensions or other sources of income. 

Rents are required to be lower for those seniors with even less income.