Thursday, April 21, 2011

PRESS RELEASE:

Hawaii Public Housing Authority Sued for violations of ADA and unsafe conditions

Federal and State Class Action Lawsuits Filed on Behalf of Tenants at Mayor Wright Homes Citing Unsafe Conditions and Lack of Access for Disabled Tenants.

April 21, 2011

Honolulu: Seeking to end notoriously unsafe conditions and inaccessible apartments at the Mayor Wright Homes (MWH), the state’s second largest public housing project, attorneys for a group of low-income residents with disabilities filed class action lawsuits in federal and state court today against the Hawaii Public Housing Authority.

The federal suit charges that the unsafe and unsanitary conditions at the project violate the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act and the Fair Housing Act. These federal laws prohibit discrimination against persons with disabilities and require equal access to government programs including public housing projects. The relief sought includes a court order requiring the State to cease its decades long violations of federal law by providing public housing that is accessible to disabled residents and by eliminating the unsafe and unsanitary conditions that exacerbate and cause disabilities.

A separate lawsuit filed in state Circuit Court alleges that the Housing Authority has breached its obligations to residents under the warranty of habitability-a warranty implied in all residential leases under state law. The warranty binds landlords to maintain premises in decent, safe and sanitary conditions.

The plaintiffs are represented by the non-profit organization Lawyers for Equal Justice.

The housing facilities at MWH are characterized by architectural barriers, leaking and bursting plumbing, an almost total lack of hot water, vermin infestation including rats, roaches and bedbugs, overflowing trash piles, toxic air filed with noxious particulates, inconsistent security and hazardous and inaccessible conditions.

Despite the unequivocal and longstanding mandates of federal disability nondiscrimination statutes, years of media coverage of the serious problems at MWH and the HPHA’s own 2008 audit of the deplorable and hazardous conditions throughout the project, the HPHA has failed to address the numerous problems that permeate MWH.

Victor Geminiani, Executive Director of LEJ said “The state's continued failure to fund over $350 million in critical repairs needed throughout our public housing system has resulted in 25,000 residents of public housing living for years in vermin infested apartments without hot water and garbage collection while elderly and disabled residents remain isolated in their apartments because of broken elevators and ineffective security. Mayor Wright is just one more example of the deplorable condition public housing has been allowed to become by ineffective state planning and action.”

For additional information, contact Victor Geminiani, Executive Director of the Lawyers for Equal Justice by email at victor@lejhawaii.org or by phone at 587 7605.

Lawyers for Equal Justice (LEJ) is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) law firm that advocates on behalf of low income individuals and families in Hawaii on civil issues of statewide importance

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