Kuhio Park Terrace and Kuhio Homes Litigation

Hawai`i Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice represented tenants in Kuhio Park Terrance and Kuhio Homes, many of whom have serious disabilities, in class action litigation against the State of Hawai`i, the Hawai`i Public Housing Authority, and Realty Laua, the management company of the KPT and Kuhio Homes projects. This impact litigation sought to improve conditions for all individual in the project, as well as ensure individuals with disabilities were able to freely access their apartments and receive reasonable accommodations.

Faletogo v. State of Hawai`i

Kuhio Park Terrace and Kuhio Homes are two of the State of Hawai`i's largest housing projects. Despite years of federal oversight and receipt of substantial federal funds, the State allowed these projects to become unsafe and unsanitary, and inaccessible for individuals with disabilities. They had failing elevators, unsavory staircases, frequent sewage backups, regular fires--and no working fire protection equipment, roaches, vermin, unsanitary trash disposal, and a complete lack of needed equipment to ensure access for disabled persons. The net effect are conditions where persons with respiratory disabilities and mobility disabilities are unable to access the project or are faced with choosing between unlivable conditions and the streets.

For years, these horrible conditions have been public knowledge. They have also the subject of federal reviews by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development--reviews that gave the State of Hawaii failing scores and found health and safety violations. Conditions at the project violate federal, state, and local housing codes. Nonetheless, the State of Hawai`i refused to take these issues seriously, resulting in a feeling of second-class citizenry of persons living at the projects.

In 2008, LEJ filed class actions against the State of Hawai`i, the State Public Housing Authority, and R&L Property Management seeking injunctive relief and damages for the aggrieved tenants.

Click here and here to view some pictures of the living conditions prior to settlement.

Watch Video from Residents discussing the problems

The federal case alleged violations by State, HPHA and management of Title II of the ADA and unlawful discrimination by failing to provide program access and reasonable modifications for persons with disabilities, failing to provide and maintain safe and functioning elevators at KPT. failing to prevent, respond to and ameliorate fire hazards, failing to create and implement evacuation plans, failing to prevent, respond to and ameliorate allergens and toxic air, and failing to eliminate and remedy architectural barriers and hazardous conditions.

The state case alleged unsafe and unsanitary conditions at KPT causing

  1. breach the warranty of habitability implied in all residential leases;
  2. breach the express terms of the leases between residents and HPHA;
  3. breach the terms of the management agreements between Realty Laua and HPHA, of which residents are intended beneficiaries; and
  4. violate numerous provisions of State and County health and safety regulations, and therefore constitute unfair acts and practices in the conduct of trade or commerce.

Both the Federal and State cases settled in August 2011. Key impacts of this litigation resulted in the State of Hawai`i repairing elevators, providing reasonable accommodations, and moving to renovate the KPT towers.

Settlement Agreement Summary

Services for residents

The settlement provides funding for development of additional improvements, programs and services for residents of Kuhio Park Terrace and Kuhio Homes, for which the Hawaii Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice sought proposals from community organizations and/or private business. The types of improvements or services that were considered for funding include but are not limited to the following areas:

  • Early childhood educational and nutritional programs for children
  • Job training for residents in areas where job growth is strong
  • Development or continuation of vibrant resident associations
  • Legal services to residents who would otherwise not have access to them
  • Community gardens and support for their operation
  • Staff the operation of the existing playground

We distributed approximately $240,000 available for distribution under this current Request for Proposals. Click here to view the RFP.

Rent Abatement for Residents

The settlement provides for a total rent abatement of almost $250,000 for KPT residents who lived at KPT or KH during the months of June 2008 through January 2011.

Required Improvements to the Common Areas

  • Management office and KKV health clinic
  • Widen door, remove step, and install lever handles
  • Path of travel
  • Even out pavement and fix cracks
  • Make ramps less steep
  • Install handrails
  • Remove protruding objects
  • Accessible passenger loading zones and curb ramps
  • Accessible parking
  • Assign based on reasonable accommodation requests
  • At least one accessible building entrance in each building
  • Remove hazards from freight elevators

New Signage

  • Provide signage for people with visual disabilities

New Policies Regarding Transfer to Accessible Units

  • Must use best efforts to transfer tenants who need accessible units within in a reasonable time
  • If they cannot transfer a tenant within a reasonable time, remove physical barriers
  • Make showers accessible, with grab bars, shower seats, and removal of barriers
  • Change apartment so that tenants who need accessible housing can get into bathroom and showers

Kuhio Homes:

  • Make sure there is a accessible path into apartment
  • Remove bathroom door
  • Make laundry areas accessible
  • Lower kitchen counters
  • Tenants will remain on waitlist even after modifications are made

Requirements Regarding Access to Information and Applications for Reasonable Accommodations

  • Revise forms to comply with new policies
  • Make available in management office
  • Make available on Hawaii Public Housing Authority website
  • Provide to all KPT and KH residents within a reasonable time
  • Provide notice to tenants of right to reasonable accommodation within a reasonable time
  • Provide notice of right to tenants signing housing agreement and to any tenant who requests one
  • Management company must comply with reasonable accommodation procedures
  • Tenant’s information related to disability and reasonable accommodation request is confidential except to parties directly involved in decision-making about the request
  • HPHA will survey each household regarding accessibility and provide a copy of reasonable accommodation procedures to each every year

General Maintenance Requirements

  • maintain accessible paths of travel
  • Inspect regularly and repair within a reasonable time
  • Check elevators twice per week and use all reasonable efforts to repair within 3 days
  • Make advance preparations to be ready to repair elevators
  • Require Realty Laua to man elevator 24 hours a day if only one elevator is operation per building

Safety Requirements

  • Remedy all fire code violations: install new fire alarm system and maintain it
  • Repair trash chute on each floor
  • Replace missing exit and elevator signs
  • Put emergency evacuation plan for disabled and non-disabled residents in place
  • Provide a copy of plan
  • Provide evacuation chairs and train staff on how to use them

Building Conditions Requirements

  • Must maintain safe, sanitary, and habitable conditions

Protection Against Retaliation or Adverse Treatment of Tenants in the Class

  • The management and Hawaii Public Housing Authority cannot retaliate or treat a tenant unfairly if you make a complaint about housing conditions

Compliance Mechanisms

  • Complaint system using a form
  • Each complainant provided a copy of the complete form at the time complaint is submitted to management or state
  • State shall provide voice mail system and email address for making complaints regarding access problems, failure to provide RA, failure to respond to maintenance requests, and failure to maintain safe and sanitary conditions. Must make available in appropriate alternative formats.
  • Tenant association may submit complaints and forms on behalf of tenants, collectively or individually

Reporting Requirements

  • Hawaii Public Housing Authority must provide regular reports to the attorneys about how they are complying with the agreement
  • The class’s attorneys can meet with the state’s attorneys regularly to review how the state is following the agreement
  • They also must provide a final report within a reasonable time about how they have followed the settlement agreement
  • The state must maintain records about tenants’ complaints, service interruptions, requests for modifications or repairs, and requests for accommodations and transfers, and how these have been resolved

Future Oversight and Inspections

  • Class’s attorneys and Plaintiff’s experts or consultants can conduct regular inspections of KPT and Kuhio Homes to determine compliance

Press Releases

Hawaii Public Housing sued for ADA, other violations December 18, 2008

In the News