INDIANAPOLIS — It took a lawsuit by residents and pressure from Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita to force the Indianapolis Housing Agency to fix and secure one of its most notorious properties, Lugar Tower on the north side of downtown.
Residents of other IHA properties congratulate the neighbors of Lugar Tower but wonder what it will take to clean up their buildings.
“A lot of people have leaky ceilings, mold, walls are tore up. Some people have toilets that aren’t even locked down,” said Eric Epperson, who lives at Barton Tower. “There are vagrants that come in and out of our buildings. They know when security is here during the day and on the evening times around five o’clock or so they know when they can come in and get high, kind of run the stairs.”
The State claimed that it had received at least 40 complaints from Lugar Tower residents alleging “failure to provide consistent hot water,” “failing to provide reliable and consistently working elevators,” “failing to secure common areas…leading to regular reports of criminal activity” and “failing to remove human excrement from the stairwells.”
“IHA denies the State’s allegations,” read the complaint.
Nevertheless, IHA and its private management firm agreed to Compliance Monitoring by Marion Superior Court for the next two years, will cooperate with AG Rokita’s Office on future written consumer complaints and respond within 20 days, open Lugar’s doors to state inspectors provided it receives 72 hours written notice, keep a list of Department of Health complaints and maintenance requests and a written description of all capital improvements and repairs.
Furthermore, IHA commits to continuous operation of the building’s HVAC systems, treatment of pest or rodent infestation, repairing apartment door locks and providing a “reasonable security presence” on the property.
“IHA shall not represent that the Office of Attorney General approves or endorses IHA’s past or future business practices, or that execution of this Assurance constitutes such approval or endorsement,” reads the Agreement.
At Barton Tower, it is IHA’s past, present and future business practices that have residents clamoring for legal and State support in their battles with management for fiscal responsibility and a safer living environment.
“They came to me telling me that I owe $364 from three years ago. It was a money order that they lost,” said Epperson. “Now they’re trying to come after me for that fee for a money order they lost three years ago.”
FOX59/CBS4 has confirmed that Barton rent checks would often go missing or uncollected under previous IHA management.
Epperson said he is facing eviction over the alleged overdue debt.
“I’m not paying something twice,” he said. “I’m not paying them again for something they mishandled three years ago.”
Neighbor Rochelle Fox shared a similar story.
“There’s some messed up paperwork. I’m missing files from previous to 2019,” she said. “When I got a copy of my personal records, it had the personal information of five other people in it. I still don’t know where seven years of my personal files are.”
Individual IHA properties and the agency as a whole have remained under consistent U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development monitoring, auditing and threats of potential takeover for years due to unresolved mismanagement, criminal activity and insider dealing as detailed in a whistleblower’s report from early 2022.
“They’re in trouble with the feds and they’re pressuring us to help them to make whatever they need to do to make right,” said Fox, who expressed sympathy for a new property manager brought in to clean up the mistakes of the past. “We’re under Indianapolis Housing Authority. That’s why we have less maintenance, the apartments are falling apart, that’s why when there’s heavy rain they’re always flooding out, peoples’ apartments are flooding out.”
IHA Chief Executive Officer Marcia Lewis issued the following statement to FOX59/CBS4:
“We are grateful for the Attorney General’s willingness to work with the Indianapolis Housing Agency through the Assurance of Voluntary Compliance. We have been working hard with the Lugar Tower property management company we engaged over the past several months to address resident concerns and improve living conditions. We are confident going forward that we will maintain compliance under the terms of the agreement.
We take any complaints we receive seriously and respond in a timely manner. The current IHA administration has worked with other stakeholders to develop and implement new management operation improvement plans for several of the other properties in the portfolio, that will allow for better living conditions for the families that we serve.”IHA Chief Executive Officer Marcia Lewis
Fox said she is done trying to fix IHA’s problems on her own.
We asked what her next move was.
“Like an attorney,” she said, “and I’m getting ready to file with the Attorney General’s Office.”