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Thursday, February 2, 2023

Water shut-off still a possibility at 4 city apartments

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Even though the residents at four Indianapolis apartment complexes continue to faithfully pay their rent, they are still at risk of having their water shut off.

For 18 months, JCP Affordable Housing Foundation has failed to pay $1.8 million in utility bills to Citizens Energy Group, leaving its apartment complex residents — Berkley Commons, Covington Square, Capital Place and Woods at Oak Crossing — anxiously waiting for what happens next.

“I really don’t know what to do,” resident Michael Boge, 54, said. “I am just in suspense right now.”

Boge moved into the Woods at Oak Crossing in May of this year. About two months later, he came home to a notice on his front door stating that the water would be turned off Sept. 30.

This is Boge’s first time living on his own, and he said he does not understand how the city and the utility company could even allow him to move in with the amount of utility debt the landlord accrued.

At a meeting hosted by the Concerned Clergy of Indianapolis on Aug. 24, Jeff Bennett, the deputy mayor of community development, said that most of the negotiations and arrangements to keep the water on have been made, but not all.

Daniel Considine, corporate communications manager for Citizens, said the utility company is working to get an agreement settled.

“This has really been unprecedented for us,” he said. “We only exist to serve our customers. Disconnecting customers goes against everything we stand for.”

The city and utility company plan to have everything resolved by the beginning of September, but the shut off deadline is still on the table.

In February, Citizens shut off the water at the Berkley Commons and Capital Place, but the city stepped in and paid a portion of the bill to get the water back on.

The utility company has consistently reached out to JCP Affordable Housing Foundation in attempts to make a payment arrangement for the bill.

In April, Citizens, the city and the state attorney general filed three separate lawsuits against JCP Affordable Housing, an out-of-state nonprofit organization. Lenders for the four apartment complexes, Wells Fargo and Fannie Mae, also filed lawsuits.

“With the climate of everything, I have no expectations,” Jazmine Evans said. “All of those words are in one ear and out the other. It’s just a bunch of empty promises. They get to be comfortable, but we have to be the ones who suffer.”

Jazmine and her parents, Roosevelt and Gizele Evans, have lived at the Woods at Oak Crossing for 13 years, and while they do not want to leave their long-time neighborhood, they are seriously considering it because of the potential water shut-off.

They have watched the steady decline of the apartment’s quality after several management changes. The family said the potholes resemble “craters” and are “known for breaking axles on cars,” but having a residential water shut-off tops all previous issues.

“This is really the icing on the cake,” Gizele said.

Bennett advised tenants to continue paying rent to avoid eviction. He also recommends people to not leave their residence because he does not want them to feel “forced” to move out.

Tenants, like Robin Young, a 13-year resident at the Woods of Oak Crossing, still have many unanswered questions and are nervous about the future.

“I feel stressed because I am putting all my faith on a promise,” she said.

Contact religion reporter Abriana Herron at 317-924-5243. 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.

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