- Associated Press - Thursday, October 30, 2014

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii (AP) - Lava threatening homes in lower Puna has the led the county to halt new leases for government housing assistance in the area.

Those seeking a government voucher for a new rental in Puna won’t be able to get one, even if the home is miles away from the lava flow. County housing administrators are concerned the Housing Choice voucher tenants could become isolated if lava crosses Highway 130 and an alternate route through Chain of Craters Road isn’t completed, West Hawaii Today (https://ow.ly/DAA42 ) reported Thursday.

Existing Puna renters in the program won’t have to leave unless there are evacuation orders. Tenants whose leases expire will be allowed to continue on a month-to-month basis.

“It’s a very difficult decision, and it’s not something that we wanted to do,” said county Assistant Housing Administrator Susan Akiyama. “We just can’t put people down there right now.”

The county understands affordable housing is limited in the area and that many people want to remain in Puna, she said.

The moratorium is for new leases covering more than 500 federal Housing and Urban Development Section 8 homes in Pahoa, Hawaiian Beaches, Hawaiian Shores, Nanawale, Leilani Estates, Hawaiian Paradise Park, Orchidland and Aina Lani.

Recipients pay a portion of the rent and the rest is paid by the government.

Landlords are also worried because they depend on the rental income to pay mortgages. “It’s a huge deal,” said Nancy Cabral, who manages hundreds of residential and commercial leases in East Hawaii, including 47 affordable rentals in Puna.

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Information from: West Hawaii Today, https://www.westhawaiitoday.com

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