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UH seeks to limit time in faculty housing


HONOLULU — After decades of lax enforcement, the University of Hawaii is reinforcing occupancy time limits on faculty housing.

Existing rules limit faculty members to one-year leases in university housing. But there was lax enforcement, allowing some to live in faculty housing since the 1990s.

An estimated 160 faculty members will likely vacate university housing on Oahu in the coming months under a revised policy, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Tuesday.

The Board of Regents approved a policy last month that reinforces the time limit and adds a provision that allows annual renewals for up to three years for tenured and tenured-track faculty.

Lease limits are needed to free up inventory for newly recruited faculty, university officials said.

“Under the policy, everyone is in violation. It’s a one-year policy,” regents Vice Chairman James Lee said.

President Barack Obama’s half-sister Maya Soetoro-Ng, an assistant professor in Manoa’s College of Education, is now looking for other housing options. She moved into faculty housing in Manoa Valley three years ago with her two children. She said faculty housing allowed her to be able to afford to live in Hawaii. “I hope they find a solution that is fair and thoughtful for everyone,” she said.

Some faculty members complain they don’t earn enough to afford housing in the private rental market. They say lease limits will hurt the university’s ability to attract and retain professors.

The university owns and manages 237 units in apartments near the Manoa campus and two townhouse complexes in Manoa Valley. Three-bedroom rents range from $1,220 to $1,789.

Private rentals in Manoa are scarce and can cost more than $3,000 a month.

“I’m nowhere close to buying a home,” said Iris Sato, an early-childhood education professor who has lived in faculty housing since 2002. “I’ve lived there for 12 years, and only after 11 ½ years could I start to save.”

The problem is a lack of units in a place where housing is expensive, Lee said. “Everybody wants to stay there,” he said. “I think the long-term solution is to build more faculty housing.”