Public housing safety budget holds steady but final figures a mystery

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Stung by double-digit crime increases, resident complaints and the revelation by IMPD Chief Bryan Roach that he didn’t know public housing safety and security was so problem-plagued, the Indianapolis Housing Agency Board of Commissioners passed a 2019 budget that is $10 million over this year’s spending plan and takes on more properties, yet officials can’t pinpoint how much they are willing to spend to keep residents safe next year.

Interim Executive Director Jennifer Green said that while spending in 2019 would remain consistent with this year’s $534,000 public safety allocation, she did not know next year’s overall public safety budget total nor how much the agency would spend on off-duty IMPD officers to patrol its properties.

Several hours after the agency budget was unanimously approved, IHA said it couldn’t provide a total for its internal security operation and its contracted off-duty patrol officers because the figures came from separate budgets.

By late September, crime was up 24 to 83 percent across IHA’s five largest properties, prompting a meeting between Green and Roach as the temporary public housing leader asked IMPD for solutions.

“We have to put together a plan to make sure that we’re utilizing the funds that we have in an appropriate way, that we have the funds that we need and we have a plan,” said Green after an IHA Board meeting when the budget was unanimously passed with little detail explanation. “We have to look at when off-duty policemen are patrolling, we have to look at a better communication plan in regards to our current staff and IMPD and our current staff in regards to managers. We’ve got to look at a better way of providing data to our managers so that they know what’s going on within their properties and just having an all-around plan so that everybody is part of that plan so it’s not just a public safety plan, it’s not just a property management plan.”

Green will meet with her staff Thursday to develop an agency-oriented response.

The Board was told that for next year’s $77 million budget to work, IHA needs 95 percent occupancy in its Section 8 program and 97 percent occupancy in its apartment complexes.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development sets guidelines above 96 percent for optimum local public housing agency operations and efficiency.

Below 93 percent occupancy garners HUD’s lowest grade.

As of Tuesday morning, IHA boasted 90.88 percent occupancy for its owned properties.

“They like for you to be about 97 percent or 98 percent so we are setting those goals for ourselves,” said Green who claimed IHA’s inability to reach HUD goals was because, “our biggest obstacle has been in maintaining maintenance and so that works within that process because we have to turn units and get ready for residents and so we are looking into that and I think we are heading into the right path in getting our maintenance back up.”

Mayor Joe Hogsett is in the midst of a nationwide search for a new executive director for the agency which is responsible for housing 22,000 low-income Marion County residents. IHA also needs a new chief operating officer and director of audit and compliance.

Hogsett has said the agency needs a, “new leadership team.”

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