Public housing provide the hope of safety and shelter for Hawai‘i’s struggling families, and the opportunity to break the generational cycle of poverty. But conditions at some public housing projects in the state have deteriorated to an extent that the projects are running counter to their purpose, and the health of residents has been at risk.
LEJ, along with it’s co-counsel, represented over a thousand public housing residents living at the state’s two largest public housing projects, Kuhio Park Terrace and Mayor Wright Homes. The deplorable conditions at these projects included fire code violations; leaking and bursting plumbing; an almost total lack of hot water; vermin infestation including rats, roaches and bedbugs; overflowing trash piles; inoperable elevators; inconsistent security; and other hazardous and inaccessible conditions. Prior to the lawsuit, the state had been cited for life-threatening conditions at the projects. LEJ’s lawsuits resulted in the leveraging over $150 million in federal tax credits to Kuhio Park Terrace and millions of dollars in repairs completed at Mayor Wright.
The Case: Faletogo v. Hawai‘i
Kuhio Park Terrace and Kuhio Homes are two of the State of Hawaii’s largest housing projects. Despite years of federal oversight and receipt of substantial federal funds, the State has allowed these projects to become unsafe and unsanitary. They have failing elevators, unsavory staircases, frequent sewage backups, regular fires–and no working fire protection equipment, roaches, vermin, unsanitary trash disposal, and a complete lack of needed equipment to ensure access for disabled persons. The net effect are conditions where persons with respiratory disabilities and mobility disabilities are unable to access the project or are faced with choosing between unlivable conditions and the streets.
For years, these horrible conditions have been public knowledge. They have also the subject of federal reviews by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development–reviews that gave the State of Hawaii failing scores and found health and safety violations. Conditions at the project violate federal, state, and local housing codes. Nonetheless, the State of Hawaii has refused to take these issues seriously, resulting in a feeling of second-class citizenry of persons living at the projects.
Some of the conditions at issue in the cases are documented in the video below.