Mayor confirms ‘more radical changes’ may be in works for public housing agency

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — As the Indianapolis Housing Agency is fashioning its response to a report by auditors for the Department of Housing and Urban Development about its operation of Section 8 housing in the city, Mayor Joe Hogsett said he has come to the conclusion that “more radical changes” may be necessary to straighten out the troubled public housing entity.

During a recent interview with FOX59 News, the mayor confirmed he has been advised that a federal takeover of the agency is one of the many options on the table as Hogsett has promised a new leadership team is coming to IHA.

In November, Interim Executive Director Jennifer Green told the Board of Commissioners that internal auditors were reviewing the recent Quality Assurance Division Audit that examined the Section 8 voucher program that provides housing for approximately 18,000 of the 22,000 residents dependent upon IHA for safe, affordable housing and that she would soon report back to the board those findings.

According to HUD rules, local public housing agencies have the right to review such reports, file a response and then be in receipt of the final audit in order to develop a plan to correct any deficiencies.

The mayor’s staff told FOX59 News that Hogsett expects to name a new executive director by the end of the month.

On Dec. 17, a City-County Council committee will consider Proposal 197, which would effectively dismiss the current IHA Board to be replaced by new mayoral, council and resident appointees March 1, giving Hogsett’s choice a fresh board to begin revamping the agency.

Longtime Executive Director Rufus Bud Myers resigned abruptly at the end of August after receiving multiple audits critical of IHA operations and finances.

An IHA Occupancy Report dated Dec. 7 showed adjusted occupancy at its properties to be less than 92%, significantly below HUD guidelines calling for 97% occupancy which IHA’s own chief financial officer said is the break-even point the agency must meet to accomplish next year’s $77 million budget.

Figures are not available for the Section 8 occupancy rate which would be a significant subject of the QAD report and could lead to, along with financial findings, federal takeover of the agency.

IHA claims 153,116 people, approximately 20% of the population of Marion County, is on its waiting list for public housing.

Green blamed IHA’s inability to quickly repair the units of existing tenants and prepare apartments for new residents on the recent departures of 16 maintenance personnel this year.

She said she also expects to be in talks with IMPD commanders this month on developing a strategy to combat crime at IHA properties. Crime has exploded in some areas at a double-digit rate while overall crime was down 10% across Indianapolis in 2017.

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