Delays keep housing residents out of renovated buildings

It’s been nearly two years, but after millions of dollars were set aside, renovated homes stand empty at a state public housing project.

In November of 2012, the State Public Housing Authority held a groundbreaking ceremony at Palolo Valley Homes. At that event, the state promised a vibrant and modern rental housing community. That promise was backed by a little more than $11 million in construction funds.

Today, the first phase of the renovation – three buildings – stand empty and are surrounded by a locked fence. Even a newly-paved parking lot with dozens of reserved stalls is closed off to the residents. Since January of 2013, many of the residents at the state public housing project have had to park on the street.

A resident turned to our Report It! Feature, and asked KHON2 why the renovations have been taking so long.

KHON2 spoke to Hakim Ouansafi, executive director of the State Public Housing Authority, and he explained that the problem centered on how to alert the residents to an emergency — in this case, the project’s new fire sprinkler system.

The problem centered on who would do around-the-clock monitoring should there be an emergency, and the new sprinkler system in a unit is activated. Normally, you would hire a private agency to do that job, but there was a question of who would assume the liability.

Private agencies demanded a release from liability, but the state would not grant the release. After months of negotiations, the city granted the permit to allow residents to move into the newly-renovated units, after the state agreed to two conditions: to install an alarm not just inside each unit, but outside each of the buildings as well, and that residents would be informed of an emergency number to call in addition to 9-1-1.

“Last month, the City and County gave us the seal (of approval) to move people in,” Ouansafi said. “Some buildings are ready and the rest are in the process of getting ready.

“In the next 30 days, everybody will be moved in there,” he said.

As for the newly-paved parking lot, Ouansafi had to ask the private company that manages the housing project for an update.

“We inquired and the reason was the lighting is not sufficient to be safe and they had to procure it to get it done,” he said.

The parking lot itself underwent extensive renovations, including having to install a new underground water line. The private management agency for the housing project has been distributing parking decals and the residents should be able to park in the lot in a couple of weeks.

A meeting will be held on Thursday to update the residents on the renovations.

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