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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, June 14, 2009

KPT in hands of housing authority

By Donna Kim and Joey Manahan

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Donna Kim.

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Joey Manahan.

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Mona: I understand conditions are bad at public housing, not just Kuhio Park Terrace. But doesn't the Legislature have some responsibility here since these conditions have gone on for years?

Sen. Donna Kim and Rep. Joey Manahan: As legislators, we set policy, make laws and appropriate funding. The day-to-day operations, security, repairs, maintenance and upkeep rest with the governor and her housing department head, Chad Taniguchi, along with the management company.

We have appropriated funds to take care of many of the projects, including the elevators, trash chutes, fire alarms, etc., but there seem to be delays in carrying out the repairs. We've tried to hold the administration accountable by doing hearings, site visits, and recently asked for an audit.

Jason K.: How much of these conditions are the fault of the tenants? Don't they have pride in where they live? If not, I'm sure there are others waiting for that spot in subsidized housing. What are your thoughts?

Kim and Manahan: The residents are an integral part of the solution. Many have pride and it shows when we went on our site visit into individual units.

More needs to be done with transferring this pride to the exterior, but it's difficult when everything around you is broken and in disrepair. More education needs to be done. But many are fearful of raising concerns to the management for repairs.

John: Ms. Mercado Kim, you said that some of the residents are fearful to complain, can you explain what basis you have to say this? Have the residents been threatened if they complained? This is an awful situation and should be taken care of by the AG's office.

Kim and Manahan: I agree that this is an awful situation. Residents we have spoken to on many different occasions have expressed fear of retribution and many have been told they should be careful or they may be evicted. We agree that the AG should look into these allegations.

Kailua Advertiser Reader: My question is so simple. Why so long? This is ridiculous. Please tell me why these things are taking this long.

Kim and Manahan: That is the exact question we have been asking. Every time we ask for updates, the dates keep changing. You would think that a response on 7/11/2008 stating the trash chutes would be completed by 2/1/2009 and the elevators completed by 11/2009 would be close to accurate, considering it was within six to 12 months.

We believe that the delays may stem from a poor attitude and not one of urgency. For example: A recent inquiry as to why the drainage pipe that fills the stairwell with several inches of water in Building A had not been fixed for so long received a reply from Mr. Taniguchi: "We tried to fix it but failed and we didn't pursue it."

Koni: I've been to KPT. A majority of the disrepair is caused by tenants. New fire alarms were being installed when I was there because vandals broke the old ones. The trash chute caught on fire. A main drainage pipe was backed up and they found belts in it. If people took more pride in their surroundings, maybe taxpayers wouldn't have to foot the bill for the constant repairs and re-repairs.

Kim and Manahan: Tenants are a part of the problem and should be part of the solution. They need to build a strong association of residents to hold each other accountable. But on the same note, management must also be held accountable. We all must work together.

Beverly: Since this problem has been going on for years, how can the state continue to hire the same management people? What will the Legislature do to change this?

Kim and Manahan: This is what we want to know and why we passed an audit to look into the procurement process for management and performance of the management company.

George: I am angry that taxpayers have to carry the burden, not only in legal fees but also potential lawsuits. As state leaders, what will you do to fix this ridiculous problem?

Kim and Manahan: Legislatively, we have done our part up to this point. Clearly the responsibility is on the administration and the housing authority to deal with the long-standing problems. Now we, as legislators, need to be advocates for the community.

We can't control who files lawsuits, however, we will continue to hold the administration accountable, provide necessary funding and be advocates for the residents.

Roland C.: I suggest all of our lawmakers and the governor go to the public housing project and spend the night. Would you agree?

Manahan: I live in the next building over, so I'm there often.

Kim: I don't think you need to spend the night there in order to know that there are problems. I grew up living right next door on Kam IV Road with only a fence separating our house from the project. We agree that the governor, legislators and other housing officials should spend more time visiting the site, walking the property and talking to the residents.

Tricky: Unfortunately, I feel the reason KPT has been ignored for so long is that there are no easy answers all the rational solutions will result in a lot of political backlash. It would be nice if the community came up with a solution, including self-policing. But nothing has happened, to date. Plus, only those who are willing to live under these difficult conditions are around to self-police. I just don't see change coming easily: Those living there do not want to give up their subsidy, and those of us not living there find it easier to subsidize them to roll up our shirt sleeves. My bad suggestion is to turn it into for-sale housing, and use the proceeds to fund a low-rise replacement for those living there. And to give those living there first rights to move back.

Kim and Manahan: A proposal has been made for a mixed-income, redevelopment project, which would include subsidized housing and affordable rentals. At this time, it is being considered. For-sale housing may not be possible given that the lands under the property are ceded lands.

Gerald: There is enough finger-pointing going around and I'm sure everyone should share in the responsibility, but what is being done NOW? What is the plan to go forward to help these people who have to live in this squalor condition? We should think of the children and the disabled who are caught in this catch-22. Be pono and do the right thing!

Kim and Manahan: Things we are doing now include considering the mixed-income development proposal, we passed and are waiting for the results of the audit, we plan to hold hearings during the interim, the funding for many of the repairs have already been appropriated, and the lawsuit should address many outstanding issues.

Jo: I feel for the families that are living in these conditions. If the management company isn't able to keep up with maintenance, shouldn't we get another management company?

Kim and Manahan: Yes, we agree.

Jim: I see Gov. Lingle has been noticeably quiet on this. What does she have to say about this? After all, this lands right in her lap.

Kim and Manahan: We wrote a letter to the governor on June 26, 2007, regarding KPT's and Kalakaua homes' elevators. We had to wait until Aug. 1, 2007, to get a short reply that the elevator consultant will be assessing the elevators in August. We have not heard from her since.

Kailua Resident: What standards are used in deciding to continue a management contract ... with a company that has clearly failed to maintain the project in a safe and sanitary fashion?

Why is the state continuing to spend so much energy and money to defend against the lawsuits instead of doing what the federal and state laws require?

Kim and Manahan: The standards and the procurement for the management contract again rest with the housing authority. Standards should be those that are considered and confirmed to be "best practice" by the industry.

However, in the procurement process, we are not privy to how the procurement committee evaluates each prospective bidder.