State puts up low-income tenants in hotels for roofing project

State puts up low-income tenants in hotels for roofing project

KALIHI, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state is paying to put dozens of low-income families from Kalihi Valley Homes up in hotels during major roof reconstruction of their buildings, but residents are upset they will be temporarily forced out of their units after they return.

The state is spending $2.7 million to completely rebuild the leaky, old roofs on 12 of the buildings here at the complex formerly known as Kam IV housing.

The state's Hawaii Public Housing Authority will pay for 108 families to spend two weeks at Waikiki hotels while the 50-year-old roofs are completely re-built.

It's what happens after that that has tenants upset.

"It's unreasonable and unaccommodating for a lot of the families that are there," said Penny Tukimaka, a tenant at the facility for the last two and a half years. She lives there with her husband, seven children and her father in law.

For the next month or so after they move back in, state housing officials said tenants may have to be out of their units Monday through Friday from eight in the morning until 4 in the afternoon, because of concerns that roofing materials might fall and injure them or construction fumes could make them sick.

"That's unreasonable because people have children, or disability issues or elderly parents that they're caring for. So that timeline of 8 to 4, where do they expect us to go?" Tukimaka asked.

Hakim Ouansafi, executive director of the Hawaii Public Housing Authority, said, "I know some said just put us in the hotel for six weeks, but we're not going to spent a million dollars on hotels to be able to do that."

Ouansafi said each family will have to stay out of their units eight hours a day for no more than five days. He said tents will be set up on the property for them to stay in or they can travel one mile to a community facility at Kuhio Park Terrace.

But they can't stay at their on-site community center just steps away from their homes because it was condemned and has been unusable for two years.

Ouansafi said repairs to that community center have been funded and are planned for the next year or so.

"We're trying to improve their lives. It's going to be some inconvenience, yes, but that inconvenience is well compensated," he said.

In letters from a public housing supervisor, tenants have been told they must continue paying rent and utilities during the repairs or face eviction.

But Ouansafi told Hawaii News Now something the tenants hadn't been told: that their rents will be reduced for each day they have to vacate their units after returning from their hotel stays.

"The way they're treating this community is really outrageous," said attorney Michael Green, who is representing some of the tenants for free.

"The fix has to be done. They need to take care of these roofs. But not to just throw people out and say, 'You know what, you guys take care of it,'" Green said.

Ouansafi said the state is spending about $100,000 on hotel rooms for 54 of the families for the first half of the work that begins Monday. He said most of the residents are not staying in hotels and chose to receive $1,000 payments in exchange for staying with relatives or friends during the initial two-week heavy construction work.

Copyright 2014 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.