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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, October 24, 2007

'It's like we're second-class citizens'

Video: Public housing units without hot water

By Mary Vorsino
Advertiser Urban Honolulu Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Alyn Vasquez, who is recovering from a recent stroke, has to boil water to wash her dishes and can't take a hot shower.

Photos by DEBORAH BOOKER | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Twelve units at Kalihi's Mayor Wright Homes public housing complex have been without hot water for about a month because of faulty solar panels.

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Twelve apartments at Mayor Wright Homes in Kalihi have been without hot water for about a month, and public housing officials are unsure when the problem will be fixed.

"It's like we're second-class citizens," said Alyn Vasquez, a longtime Mayor Wright tenant and member of the Kalihi-Palama Neighborhood Board. "We're not living in a Third World country. We pay our rent."

Chad Taniguchi, executive director of the Hawai'i Public Housing Authority, said the lack of hot water is due to faulty solar panels installed in 1984.

He said contractors are working to fix the problem.

Still, it's not clear when hot water will return.

For now, residents are heating water on their stoves to wash dishes or take baths. Or, they're taking cold showers.

The 12 units without hot water are in two low-rise buildings. There are 364 units at Mayor Wright Homes.

Vasquez said several of the people in her building are sick or disabled and are suffering without hot water.

Vasquez, 52, is struggling, too.

She uses a cane and is recovering from a recent stroke, and said she needs hot water to ease her aching muscles.

"I'm a fanatic about cleanliness," she added.

This isn't the first time Mayor Wright Homes residents have been without hot water for an extended period. In early 2006, dozens of residents were forced to use cold water for more than a month because of persistent cloudy weather.

Without sun, and a good back-up system, the solar heating panels weren't able to heat water.

At the time, public housing supervisor Wendell Chu, who oversees Mayor Wright Homes and other projects, said the water heating system at Mayor Wright needs to replaced.

But there are no immediate plans to put in new panels.

Reach Mary Vorsino at mvorsino@honoluluadvertiser.com.

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