Council members urging city to fix Ewa plantation homes

EWA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Varona Village is a place where you can walk down the street and get a feel for Ewa's plantation past. It's also a place that a Honolulu city council member says time -- and the city -- forgot.

You can find Varona Village and it's 50 or so homes at the very end of Renton Road. It's part of the old Ewa Villages, with plantation houses dating back as far as the 1930s. Some of the homes there have fallen apart and been abandoned.

Lucerna Tapaoan's home has a leaky roof.  The 81-year-old Tapaoan showed Hawaii News Now the various places in her ceiling with water stains where rain has come in. Many of those stains are dangerously close to ceiling light fixtures. And there are those stains everywhere. In every bedroom, in the kitchen and in the living room.

The bathroom is a slightly different story. "They fix the ceiling, but the roof they never fix. So the water come inside and I get the bucket to put it here," she said, demonstrating how she puts out plastic pans on the bathroom floor to catch the rain water.

How long has Tapaoan's roof been leaking? "More than three years. But I have been complaining," she said.

The city is her landlord. Under a 1992 master plan, the city was going to rehabilitate the old plantation homes, and then make the homes and lots available for purchase by the residents. It's been done in Tenney and Renton Villages, where there are modern sidewalks and the homes have solar panels.

Longtime Varona Village residents would also like to have their chance. "We like live in this place," said Chris Malate, who has lived in her home since 1971. "We like buy our houses, if possible." She, too, has a leaky roof.

"The city is the landlord of this property, and as the property's landlord, the city had an obligation to provide living conditions that, at the very least, are safe and that meet city building codes," said City Council member Ron Menor. He and fellow council member Kymberly Pine have introduced a resolution, urging the city to address the poor living conditions in the 15 or so homes that are still occupied by original plantation workers.

"The city would never allow a landlord to let any of their tenants live in these types of conditions, which makes it unacceptable that it's allowing itself to have its own tenants live in these conditions," said Pine.

A hearing on the resolution is scheduled Thursday at Honolulu Hale.

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