IHA board meeting explodes with resident concerns
INDIANAPOLIS — Frustrations and concerns swirled Tuesday afternoon from Indianapolis families worried that they could lose their homes.
For an hour and 45 minutes, dozens of residents took turns at the podium demanding answers from the housing agency about the lack of maintenance workers, the financial status of the agency and what’s next for them.
Residents confronted the Indianapolis Housing Agency about a lack of transparency.
They say they feel neglected and demanded change.
“Let’s be upfront. Let’s be truthful to the residents,” Sandra Bailey said.
WRTV Investigates has shared IHA’s financial crisis and its plans to potentially sell some of its properties, including Laurelwood Apartments, where Sandra Bailey lives at.
“The misappropriated funds didn’t happen overnight. I think it’s unfair to the residents that you want to sell our properties,” Bailey said.
Monday, she passed out flyers in hopes to pack the meeting.
“If they are going to sell where you live at, and you don’t know what’s going on because you haven’t gotten any information, it leaves that tenant in a very unsecured position if you will,” Bailey said.
Interim Executive Director Marcia Lewis assures residents if the property they are living at sells, residents will not have to move, and rent will not change due to contracts with the Department of Urban Housing and Development. They will just have new owners.
“The properties you will be project-based rental assistance just like they are now,” Lewis said.
Emotions were high as residents also pointed out maintenance and rodent concerns.
“There are so many board issues. There is no communication,” said an attendee.
“I wanted to keep my home and there is things that need to be done out there. We are short-staffed, and we need help,” Karen Tyler said.
At one point, Lewis was in tears.
“I can’t fix what has been a mess for years. Every day, I make decisions about which bills to pay,” Lewis said.
Lewis said there are only four maintenance workers to cover 16 hundred units.
“I am trying. On a daily basis, I receive anywhere from 25 to 30 citations from the Board of Health about our properties daily,” Lewis said.
On top of that, she said caseworkers responsible for Section 8 residents are averaging 600 cases a person.
As the agency, struggles to bounce back, Lewis says she’s doing all she can.
“Now I am sorry that’s all I can say,” Lewis said. “I’m one person. Please, please forgive me because I said this to staff before, I wish I had been here sooner. I don’t think I’m God’s gift to America, I don’t think I am a miracle worker, but I would’ve done better than this and I am not sitting by watching.”
Lewis said the agency has reached out to the city of Indianapolis for money to help pay for more maintenance workers.
The city says the Metropolitan Development Commission will vote on Wednesday on a measure to enable IHA to hire 16 temporary maintenance staff to swiftly address the backlog of work orders. A spokesperson said this measure is strongly supported by Mayor Hogsett, and the mayor urges all commission members to vote in favor.
The agency is also attempting to acquire funding for a customer service line for residents according to Lewis. It’s also finding new property managers.
To be clear, Lewis told those in attendance that no public housing properties have sold at this time.