KAPAA — The tile is being ripped up from the floors of five apartments in a state-owned housing complex, exposing the concrete and leaving some residents with questions about when it will be replaced.
“By law, we’re not mandated to put in flooring, but we do that for aesthetics and we will do it for that project as well,” said Hakim Ouansafi, executive director of Hawaii Public Housing Authority. “Our plan, once we get the funding, is then we can go back and it’s easy to put tile in, or something.”
But it could take a year or more for residents in the Hale Nan Kai O Kea Elderly Housing Project behind Mahelona Hospital in Kapaa to see new flooring in their homes.
“It’s going to be a legislative request and as soon as it’s deemed (worthy of funds), probably next year sometime, we’ll go through the procurement process,” Ouansafi said.
That means contracting companies will have to bid on the project.
Even without waiting on the Legislature, Ouansafi said Hawaii Public Housing Authority has to wait 30 days from the time they ripped up the flooring to make sure no moisture seeps up through the concrete before they could install additional flooring.
Currently, in Carrie Carvalho’s apartment, smooth brown cement is exposed between various floor rugs.
She spent two nights in a hotel while maintenance workers tore out the flooring, which had glue coming up through the cracks, and Hawaii Public Housing Authority paid for everything, including meals and transportation.
Now, while the seeping floor glue and the danger it posed for the 77-year-old kupuna are both gone, Carvalho returned home wondering what happened to her floor.
“I came back to an empty floor and I told them they should just knock out the back wall here and I can pull my car in and park it inside since it’s just a cement floor like a garage,” Carvalho said.
She’s hopeful that after the 30-day waiting period, Hawaii Public Housing Authority will be able to put tile, or carpet over the concrete.
“I got new slippers so I can walk on the floor and not slip,” Carvalho said. “I’m really disappointed because I thought they were going to replace the tile and now I can’t see a cockroach or a centipede if it goes across.”
Councilman Mason Chock, who visited the complex last week, said he was alarmed to hear about the issue at the complex, which was sparked when Carvalho tripped over some glue coming up from the floor and broke her ankle in 2014.
“Our elders deserve attention and aloha,” Chock said. “I will be following this issue closely.”
Carvalho’s tile was the first to be removed, and raised the red flag for maintenance staff members to check the flooring in the complex’s other apartments.
“There were four units that have similar, but not as bad issues and we’ll get them fixed,” Ouansafi said.
Management at the complex has been working with Carvalho for about two years, in an attempt to remedy the problem, but direct action wasn’t taken until about a month ago when Ouansafi was notified of the issue.
The crux of the matter was that Carvalho didn’t want to vacate the apartment, Ouansafi said.
“I did get a call at this office and that was the first time I knew there was an issue,” Ouansafi said. “The next day I dispatched the head of maintenance who went there to meet with the tenant, inspect the unit, and he came back and gave me different options.”
The on-site manager should have brought Ouansafi into the conversation instead of trying to work the situation out himself, Ouansafi said.
Generally, tenants with Hawaii Public Housing Authority are moved to a hotel or to a different unit until repairs can be completed, and it’s never a 100 percent guarantee that they’ll be placed back in their original apartment when the work is finished.
As soon as they found out about the flooring issue, Ouansafi sent maintenance crews from Honolulu to remedy the problem. He couldn’t just contract someone from Kauai to do the work because of procurement rules, he said.
Meanwhile, other tenants aren’t too sure they want to go down the same road as Carvalho with their own flooring.
“I got the paper to have our floors redone, but now that I see auntie’s, I don’t want my floor redone,” said Monica Contrades, another resident at the complex.
Though the floor may be cement, the glue danger has been removed and that was the main priority of this round of maintenance.
“It’s a clean, safe and decent surface, stained with a different color,” Ouansafi said. “My chief of maintenance looked at the floor and said it’s a safe, good, temporary solution.”