INDIANAPOLIS — The agency that provides housing assistance to approximately 25,000 low-income Marion County residents is teetering on financial insolvency and in desperate need of cash.
“I need money to make this agency survive,” Indianapolis Housing Agency Interim Executive Director Marcia Lewis told her Board of Commissioners this afternoon. “I know it’s a lot and it is a very different approach, but our backs are against the wall.”
Lewis’ “different approach” calls for hiring a broker to put just about every property and financial interest on IHA’s books up for sale to quickly raise $10 million to pay off a pending loan, pay contractors, pay the federal government and hire enough managers and maintenance staff to keep the agency afloat and even make the end-of-the-month payroll.
The Board approved the broker proposal.
“The residents are the ones it is hurting the most,” said Bonita Davis, who’s thinking about moving out of Barton Tower. “The financial situation that we are in, it didn’t come in overnight.”
More than a decade of mismanagement, questionable investments and outright fraud alleged by a housing whistleblower report obtained by CBS4 News have left IHA unable to pay its bills, staff its buildings or even cut the grass on its more than a dozen housing properties. Not to mention the threat of receivership by the Department of Housing and Urban Development which Lewis told the board would be a death knell for any future agency investment opportunities.
While IHA may own the land on which its housing properties are constructed, it co-owns the buildings with private investors who often have qualified for tax credits.
“We are in regular communication with the investors,” said Lewis. “They, because of their concerns about the management of the properties, have, in some cases, mandated that we turn over the management of the properties to private companies.
“What we don’t want for the Indianapolis Housing Agency is for the investor to pull us out of the deals. If the investor removes you as a general partner in the real estate deal, it pretty much will keep you from ever being able to obtain the financing, the tax credits and other means in the future.”
Lewis’ plan is to put most of IHA’s financial interests on the block before the investors force her agency’s hand.
The Board was told that talks are going on with Mayor Hogsett’s office to move IHA operations from 1919 North Meridian Street to vacant space inside the City-County Building in order to put the agency’s headquarters up for sale.
“I believe Marcia Lewis is making bold moves,” said Barton Tower resident Mary Chapman, “and she has come in to clean up wrongdoings for many years. They have been going on for many years, so I’m going to go on and put my hope into her judgment.”
Lewis said she may consider turning four properties IHA owns outright into Section 8 and market rentals with partners to raise the money to finance overdue updates and repairs.
State and federal reviews of IHA’s sorry financial status are not due back until the first of July.
The Mayor’s Office provided the following statement to CBS4 News:
“The City has remained in close communication with IHA about potential options to achieve a healthier financial position. It is timely and prudent to investigate whether this strategy could secure much-needed capital for the agency, while at the same time creating an opportunity to rehabilitate apartments and preserve their long-term deep rent affordability.”