BY JIM DOOLEY –Hakim Ouansafi, chairman of the Muslim Association of Hawaii and a longtime executive in the hotel industry here, has been selected as the newest head of the state’s public housing agency.
The board of the Hawaii Public Housing Agency is scheduled to vote on Ouansafi’s appointment tomorrow. His selection must also be approved by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
If approved, Ouansafi, 47, would be the ninth executive to serve at the top of the troubled agency in 14 years.
HPHA board chairman David Gierlach told a legislative committee today that the hiring of a new executive director “with excellent management skills” will demonstrate the agency’s commitment to improvements and change.
Gierlach declined to identify Ouansafi by name, but the first item of business on tomorrow’s HPHA board agenda is a motion to approve Ouansafi as the new executive director.
Gierlach and other HPHA officials testified at a meeting of the Senate Committee on Human Services about the findings of a Hawaii State Auditor’s report released earlier this year.
HPHA has met federal deadlines to improve management and oversight of more than 6,000 housing units it controls statewide, the committee was told.
Executive directors at HPHA and its administrative predecessor, the Housing and Community Development Corp. of Hawaii, have come and gone with great regularity in recent years.
In 2002, the federal government forced the agency’s then-director and its entire board of directors to resign for mismanagement of money and exposing the government to “waste and abuse.”
The most recent director, Denise Wise, resigned in September.
Wise had helped HPHA achieve a milestone project, conversion of the state’s largest public housing complex, Kuhio Park Terrace/Kuhio Homes in the Kalihi neighborhood of Honolulu, to a privately-owned and operated facility.
Ouansafi was born in Morocco and received his college education in Rhode Island.
He is married and the father of three adopted children.
A past hotel executive and development consultant, Ouansafi has frequently spoken about Muslim issues to community groups and to local news media.