State to start evicting public housing residents for repeat COVID-19 rules violations

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Updated: Aug. 4, 2020 at 3:15 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Public housing residents in Hawaii could soon face eviction for multiple violations of rules in place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, state authorities said Tuesday.

In an emergency meeting, members of the Hawaii Public Housing Authority’s board said they were alarmed by the rise in COVID-19 cases at public housing projects ― as well as a major outbreak at its former complex, The Towers at Kuhio Park Terrace, which now has 16 active cases.

Outbreaks at public housing complexes, board members said, are especially dangerous because of the close living quarters for many of the residents.

“In public housing, it’s like being on an airplane,” said Pono Shim, a member of the housing board. “We have a consolidated group of people in a confined space, and as leaders we need to take extreme cautions just like airlines.

The new rules require face coverings in all common areas and residents must be 6 feet from each other when in public spaces on housing property.

Outside visits and gatherings in common areas will also be restricted, the board said.

Violators will be given verbal warnings and notices of violation. After two such violations, the authority says, a notice of eviction can be issued.

The new rules are set to take effect in the next few days, according to the board.

Besides the KPT cluster, the housing authority said it has a total of 15 active cases at its properties, including two at Mayor Wright Homes. But some believe those statistics are understated.

“I would be surprised if that’s the true number. I think it’s very likely that it will escalate, if it hasn’t already and we just don’t know it,” said state Sen. Karl Rhoads, whose district includes Mayor Wright and other public housing projects.

Rhoads said he has fielded a number of complaints from residents about large gatherings at Mayor Wright and has passed them on to authorities.

“From the reports I’ve been getting there, people have been gathering without face masks and in large groups. It’s better that it’s outdoors but it’s a recipe for disaster,” Rhoads said.

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