Thursday, December 18, 2008

Honolulu Advertiser: Suit accuses housing authority of 'hazardous conditions

Victor Geminiani, of Lawyers for Equal Justice, speaks to the news media about a class-action lawsuit filed today against the Hawai'i Public Housing Authority alleging

Victor Geminiani, of Lawyers for Equal Justice, speaks to the news media about a class-action lawsuit filed today against the Hawai'i Public Housing Authority alleging "hazardous conditions" and "discriminatory obstacles" at Kuhio Park Terrace and Kuhio Homes in Kalihi, two of the largest and oldest public housing complexes in the state.

GREGORY YAMAMOTO | The Honolulu Advertiser

A class-action lawsuit was filed today against the Hawai'i Public Housing Authority alleging "hazardous conditions" and "discriminatory obstacles" at Kuhio Park Terrace and Kuhio Homes in Kalihi, two of the largest and oldest public housing properties in the state.

Six tenants joined the lawsuit, filed by Lawyers for Equal Justice and several private attorneys.

The class-action alleges:

  • "The air at KPT is filled with hazardous particulates," including soot dust from frequent trash fires, roach dust and rat allergens. "Added to these toxins," the suit says, "are the effects of leaking and burst pipes, and plumbing backups, causing brown wastewater to fill housing units."
  • The public housing authority is not following federal inspection and maintenance standards at KPT and Kuhio Homes.
  • The agency has failed to ensure compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
  • KPT has nonfunctioning and "dangerous" elevators that impede mobility for the disabled and elderly.
  • KPT has no fire evacuation plan and has had persistent fire code violations.

    "It's tragic today that we find the state the largest slum landlord that we have," said Victor Geminiani, executive director of Lawyers for Equal Justice, in a news conference this morning.

    The class-action suit is seeking an unspecified amount of damages and a court order to mandate that conditions at KPT and Kuhio Homes be improved.

    The housing authority has not yet responded to the lawsuit.

    In addition to the class-action filed today, Lawyers for Equal Justice also filed a state complaint that seeks rent rebates for KPT tenants based on "squalid, unsafe and unsanitary" conditions at the housing project.

    KPT has 614 units in two 16-floor towers.

    Kuhio Homes, a low-rise complex, has 134 units.

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