State department head sues city over flood damage

Local News

The head of the state Public Housing Authority is suing the city. Hakim Ouansafi’s home in Niu Valley has major damage from the flooding back in April. He claims the damage could’ve been much less if the city had done its job.

Ouansafi says this could turn into a class action lawsuit because dozens were impacted and some of his neighbors suffered more loss than he did.  

The April floods devastated East Honolulu. Homes and belongings were destroyed by floodwater, mud, and sewage. Ouansafi and his family lost nearly everything.

“You get to your house and your heart sinks, it really sinks,” said Ouansafi. “Anything that touched water, especially that it’s brown water, it has to go. To be thrown away. There’s no other remedy to it.”

Ouansafi claims the damage could have been less if the city properly evaluated, repaired, and maintained flood and drainage systems in the area. 

“The number of times and effort and actually what they did to the different streams for the past couple of years fell below the standard of care clearly, in our minds,” said Ouansafi’s attorney Lyle Hosoda. 

“You hear but it’s a 100-year-flood, but it’s not the 100-year-flood it already happened 3-4 times in the last 30 years,” said Ouansafi. “The worst feeling is you are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars and not have any comfort level that it’s not going to happen again.”

Ouansafi is filing as a homeowner and not in his official capacity. Because he’s the head of the Public Housing Authority, he couldn’t use 93 contractors to fix his home. That’s to avoid a possible conflict of interest since many of the contractors on the island do work for the state.

The process has been emotionally and financially draining, but Ouansafi has filed the lawsuit in hopes that this does not happen again. 

“What is the most responsible way of doing this? It’s not about the money. It’s about safety and health for us and the community,” he said. 

Ouansafi is suing for damages and hopes changes will be made to maintain the streams and drains better. The city says it has not been served with the complaint and has no comment on pending litigation. 
 

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