Rumor mill at Mayor Wright Housing creates rift between FACE, housing authority

Rumor mill at Mayor Wright Housing creates rift between FACE, housing authority

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A community group is claiming that the Hawaii Public Housing Authority has told tenants at Mayor Wright Housing not to talk to them. But the head of the housing authority says otherwise.

Mayor Wright Housing has had a negative reputation, but improvements have been made over the past several months. For example, residents finally got reliable hot water, and security has been improved, reducing the number of violent crimes there.

However, a rumor surfaced earlier this week. "Some of the residents had reported that the buildings were coming down in six months and that the residents were getting kicked out," said James Fitzpatrick of the group Faith Action for Community Equity, or FACE. The group has been an advocate for tenants for several years.

But FACE became alarmed at a letter from Hakim Ouansafi, the executive director of the housing authority, which was distributed to Mayor Wright tenants Friday. The organization said it sounded like the authority was urging tenants not to work or cooperate with FACE.

"The letter did cause a lot of confusion, because we have tried very hard to let the Hawaii Public Housing Authority know what we're doing, what we've been saying to residents," said Fitzpatrick.

In the letter, Ouansafi tells tenants, "We are extremely disappointed with FACE's current leadership's attempt to spread panic amongst our tenants. We are unsure regarding FACE's motivation for communicating to you that you will be kicked out -- I am writing to set the record straight and tell you that their information is blatantly false."

The letter also said that any information from outside organizations are "nothing but rumors."

"The letter is self-explanatory," Ouansafi told HNN. "We're just telling our tenants, do not hear information from anybody else."

Ouansafi also said that the housing authority is not preventing tenants from working with outside groups.

"We encourage our tenants to work with any other association, non-profit and alike, anything that's going to do good for our community," he said. "And I do know that FACE does some good. That's why we're puzzled, why would the leadership take this bold move and put fear into its tenants' hearts."

Ouansafi said there are plans to renovate and improve Mayor Wright Housing, but said in the tenant letter that there will be a series of meetings with tenants to gather feedback, and that no construction will start for at least a few years.

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