INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — As we walked through her snow-covered backyard, Yvette Mayo worried that going public with her complaints about maintenance problems at the Indianapolis Housing Agency could leave her homeless.
“Do you suppose they’ll kick me out?” she asked.
But then Mayo thought about the injury to her leg which she says she suffered when the floor in her bathroom collapsed after being beset by dry rot following months of unresolved complaints about a leaky faucet that was undermining her house.
“My floor caved in, I fell in, hit my knee, cracked my knee, cracked a bone in my knee, and the whole floor was just sunk in,” said Mayo. “As I went down, my foot went down and my knee and I tried to catch my fall and I hit my knee, and X-rays say I got a cracked bone in there.”
Mayo has the paperwork to prove she first complained about the leaky outdoor faucet last spring.
“You could hear it in the bathroom running, and when they came out they told me that they didn’t know how to turn it off.”
Mayo said a maintenance worker capped the faucet, forcing the leak back into her crawlspace and flooring that eventually spread dry rot from the bathroom through a wall to a laundry room and kitchen.
She suspects the maintenance worker falsified the closure of her work order last fall to portray the problem as solved.
When a workman finally responded early this month to lay plywood over the rotted floors, he also fixed a collapsed ceiling that went unattended since last Labor Day but has yet to reinstall a smoke detector in what is a violation of federal housing law.
Cold air seeps in through the flooring, and Mayo’s toilet is still not secured.
“We pay rent, and the reason we pay rent is you’re supposed to have 24-hour maintenance,” said Mayo. “I feel if I’m paying my money, then stuff should be fixed.”
IHA’s own maintenance records for Concord Homes on the west side claim that while a majority of work orders for repairs are completed within the one-week requirement of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, other reports remain outstanding for up to 74 days, indicating a lag in repairs, faulty record keeping or, as Mayo maintains, a willful cover-up of completion data.
Last fall, after Mayor Joe Hogsett heard maintenance complaints while touring the IHA Laurelwood Apartments on the south side, Interim Executive Director Jennifer Green admitted to reporters that her agency had repair problems.
“Our biggest obstacle has been in maintaining maintenance, and I think we are heading into the right path in getting our maintenance back up," she said.
Green has suggested one solution might be to identify high school students with an aptitude for maintenance work and hire and train them to fix IHA properties.
Last year, one Concord Homes maintenance employee died, another retired, and the new manager (who was transferred despite protests from residents at another IHA property) is on medical leave.
“What I feel about IHA is they don’t care,” said Mayo. “They don’t care. It's not in their house.”
IHA’s most recent occupancy rates have topped out at 90.47%, well below HUD’s 97% guideline, which is also the local agency’s break even point to make this year’s $77 million budget.
IHA houses 22,000 low-income Marion County residents while claiming more than 130,000 on its waiting list.
FOX59 recently reported that HUD found IHA in non-compliance on multiple financial issues.
Green said the agency is working on solutions but could offer no proof of that claim.
Last week’s IHA Board of Commissioners meeting failed due to the lack of a quorum blamed on the weather, conflicting schedules and medical issues of some commissioners.
Mayor Hogsett is reportedly on the verge of naming a new executive director, most likely from outside the agency and quite possibly from the private sector, to run IHA.
At the end of February, the terms of the current IHA board members will expire with new commissioners to be named by the mayor, the City County Council and residents.