With more than 18 months of unpaid utility bills, more than two dozen water shut-off notices and 20 payment arrangements, an agreement with JPC Affordable Housing assures that water and gas will remain on at four city apartments while forcing the owner to sell its properties.
City officials, Citizens Energy Group and the attorney general’s office announced the agreement with JPC Affordable Housing at a press conference Sept. 8.
“Frankly, it should not take a three-way lawsuit by a local government, a utility company and a state-level official to bring justice in such a clear case of neglect,” Mayor Joe Hogsett said at the press conference.
In April, Citizens, the city and the state attorney general filed three separate lawsuits against JPC Affordable Housing.
In the settlement agreement, the owner must sell all four properties by the end of the year to a new non-affiliated ownership group. JPC Affordable Housing and Berkley Commons LLC will not be able to do business or own residential properties anywhere in Indiana for seven years.
Residents at Berkley Commons, Covington Square, Capital Place and Woods at Oak Crossing were scheduled to have their water shut off Sept. 30 because the property owner failed to pay what is now $1.9 million in utility bills to Citizens.
Citizens President and CEO Jeffrey Harrison said that about 1,184 units were at risk of having their water turned off, with close to 3,000 people being impacted due to the property owner’s negligence.
The agreement also allows the city to recover up to the full $850,000 it paid in February to turn utilities back on at Berkley Commons and Capital Place.
“The mental anguish of not knowing what would happen on Oct. 1st is now over,” the Concerned Clergy of Indianapolis said in a statement. “Hopefully, this announcement will be able to stabilize families in those apartments so we can have a more stable community.”
While the agreement has been made, resident Brianna Bible does not feel much sense of relief.
The 38-year-old mother of two has been living at the Woods of Oak Crossing apartment complex for less than a year and is preparing to move when her lease ends in December. The main reason for her move is because of how the water shut-off situation was handled at the complex.
“As a resident, I am not feeling valued because throughout this whole process, we haven’t received any communication from the apartment complex,” she said in an interview with the Recorder after the announcement. “I am prepared for the worst but hoping for the best.”
Jazmine Evans is “happy” that an agreement was made but wishes the property owner would have done a better job of upholding their leasing requirements from the beginning.
“Just be honest with people,” she said. “Just be transparent with your tenants and I am more than positive there will not be any discrepancies.”
Even though the utilities will remain on, the 13-year resident of the Woods at Oak Crossing has learned “to not have any expectations.”
“It’s sad but it’s the reality now days,” she said.
Contact religion reporter Abriana Herron at 317-924-5243 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @Abri_onyai. Herron is a Report for America corps member and writes about the role of Black churches in the community.