HONOLULU - Honolulu City Council is considering a resolution designating Chinatown as a slum. It sounds ugly and negative, but it could bring federal help if it’s done.

Deterioration, unsanitary or unsafe conditions in a high density of population. Things you can see in Chinatown and some of the reasons city council members are considering this resolution.

One of the examples is abandoned and blighted buildings, some even covered in graffiti. Chinatown business officials say both scenarios are common.

"Many of our properties are operated by hardworking mom and pops so there are a few empty stores, true because this is just the nature,” Chu Lan Kwock, Chinatown Business Association said.

Kwock is proud of the successful businesses in Chinatown but acknowledges the boarded up, graffitied storefronts in her neighborhood and the people often found hanging outside.

"The area we identify as really bad areas are River and Pauahi,” Kwock said.

She says it’s those pockets plagued by homelessness, drug addiction and violence that needs help. She suggested more police patrols and surveillance but added Chinatown as a whole is not a slum.

The city council may disagree.

"If a slum blight designation is made, then it makes it much easier for the city to commit funds even if it’s a public facility,” Ernie Martin, council chair said.

Resolution 18-131 defines a "slum" or "blight area" as having dilapidated or deteriorated buildings, unsanitary or unsafe conditions, plus high density of population and overcrowding, creating an "economic or social liability, or conducive to ill health, transmission of disease, infant mortality, juvenile delinquency, or crime." 

If the city makes the designation official, it would clear the way for funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

HUD's Community Development Block Grant program sends money to qualified communities to expand affordable housing and economic development as well as to improve community facilities and services.

Business owners who support the resolution say the abandoned buildings are a major problem, becoming magnets for vandalism and homeless.

The council has not made any decisions and it can decide on specific parts of the Chinatown district that need help.

Kwock told Island News she doesn't disagree with federal funding going towards Chinatown but doesn't agree with the term “slum”. She believes the money should go to funding Honolulu police patrols and surveillance efforts.