In April, residents demanded an investigation and leadership changes at the Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee, alleging lost rent payments and poor management and maintenance.
Last week, residents continued pushing their demands as more than 300 people gathered in the Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church to insist Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee, or HACM, leaders be held accountable.
Residents speak out
Several people gave testimonials on how they had been overcharged, charged unfair late fees or charged for bills they’d already paid.
“What we are hearing here is that HACM is incompetent and negligent in its rent collection and that it steals from its residents,” said the Rev. Will Davis, who co-chaired the assembly. “The organization has known for over a year that’s its residents are being mischarged and (HACM) has (done) nothing to fix the issue.”
Florence Riley, who has lived in her Westlawn apartment for three years, said she’s been charged late fees for seven months in a row despite paying her rent on time.
“When I take it to management, they just adjust the bill and say it’s a glitch in the system,” said Riley. “My concern is for my senior and disabled neighbors that don’t know how to look for these things. Are they giving them their money back?”
Others said they have been pressured into filing false claims for rent assistance from Community Advocates and the Social Development Commission.
According to a statement from Amy Hall, the marketing and communications officer with HACM, the Housing Authority has implemented a substantial number of monitoring, compliance, evaluation and enforcement requirements.
The Housing Authority is governed by a seven-member Board of Commissioners appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the Milwaukee Common Council. It is funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD.
Tenants raise concerns
Earlier this year, residents and Common Ground, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that works on community issues, gathered to demand an investigation into the Housing Authority. This occurred after its staff spoke with 1,000 residents in public housing across 17 different developments in Milwaukee who expressed concerns about having experienced assault, bedbugs and rats, “lost” rent payments, abusive management, mold and no heat.
The Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee provides public housing to about 5,000 low-income, elderly or disabled Milwaukeeans and their families.
“It took me eight years to get into my unit, where I can afford to live like an actual person,” said Riley. “I don’t plan on leaving. I am going to keep trying to hold this organization accountable.”
According to Roye “Chris” Logan, a HACM resident who is heavily involved in trying to hold the agency accountable, some of the residents’ concerns are beginning to be addressed, but there has still been no accountability for HACM’s management team.
“They got rid of the abusive manager we’d been complaining about for months, made a few repairs and gave us back access to community spaces,” she said. “But there is much more that needs to be done.”
Davis said the group had hoped to discuss concerns with HUD regional administrator Diane Shelley, but said she backed out because of its line of questioning.
NNS reached out to HUD officials but has not heard back.
“We request reports and don’t get them,” Logan said. “We complain, and they tell us we need more people, so we find more people. We are doing HUD’s job for them, and they still find excuses not to show up.”