[Hpn] Milwaukee Housing agency in fiscal turmoil

chance martin streetsheet@sf-homeless-coalition.org
Fri, 15 Jun 2001 10:48:15 -0700

Original URL: http://www.jsonline.com/news/metro/jun01/walkers15061401a.asp

Housing agency in fiscal turmoil

HUD, state watch Walker's Point group's programs

of the Journal Sentinel staff

Last Updated: June 14, 2001

The Walker's Point Development Corp., one of the few remaining non-profit
housing organizations in the city, is in serious financial trouble, the
treasurer of the board of directors acknowledged Thursday.

But Treasurer Elaine Richards said the agency is resilient and hopes to find
a way out of its financial problems.

Richards made the comments in reply to questions about the agency's
troubles, which include:
*    A foreclosure suit filed last month in Milwaukee County Circuit Court
against the agency by the Maritime Savings Bank. The suit claims the agency
took out a $100,000 mortgage on a property at 1021-1025 W. National Ave. in
June 1999 and is in default of the mortgage by failing to make the required
payments. The bank is asking for a $104,561.35 judgment to cover the
mortgage, interest and late charges.
*    Monitoring reports by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban
Development that detail "serious problems" with the financial and program
management of housing projects the agency runs for the homeless and
*    The agency's default on a $100,000 grant it received from the state
Department of Commerce for economic development.

Anne Murphy, an assistant attorney general with the state Department of
Justice, said Thursday the department considers the $100,000 Commerce grant
in default because the money was misspent. She said efforts will be made to
negotiate a repayment plan with the agency.

Denise Wise, president and chief executive of Walker's Point Development
Corp., has said the money was spent on operating expenses, contrary to the
conditions of the grant.

Troubles with HUD
The agency's troubles go beyond money.

In March, HUD reviewers called the overall management of the agency's Home
Sweet Home housing project for low-income, chronically mentally disabled
people "below average." The project consists of eight housing units
scattered throughout the city.

On May 31, the agency stepped down as the managing agent for the project

Tri-Corp Housing Inc. will assume management of the project, a spokesman
from the Milwaukee office of HUD said. Tri-Corp is the parent corporation of
South Community Organization - another local non-profit housing group.

Once lauded as the shining star of non-profit housing groups for its efforts
to rehabilitate south side homes and and promote ownership for first-time
home buyers, Walker's Point Development Corp. is one of the few remaining
non-profit housing providers in the city.

Others, such as East Side Housing Action Coalition, Westside Conservation
Corp. and Community Development Corp. have all gone bankrupt in recent

Walker's Point Development Corp. has faced mounting criticism in the last
year for not maintaining its south side properties.

One property of particular concern for its deteriorating condition and
unsightly appearance is at 1021-25 W. National Ave., the property that now
faces foreclosure. The agency continually has said it would rehabilitate it
but has yet to do so.

Forced to pay forfeiture
Last year, a Municipal Court judge ordered the agency to pay a $520
forfeiture for failing to do masonry and other work to the exterior of that
building. In 1999, part of the brick facade of the century-old building
collapsed onto the busy sidewalk.

Wise did not respond to numerous calls for comment Thursday. Richards said
she did not have time to go over the agency's lengthy responses to the

The HUD spokesman said the agency submitted written responses to all of
HUD's findings and concerns on June 1. HUD is reviewing those responses, he

"In the meantime, no grant renewals have been made," he said.

In the HUD report for Octavia House, a transitional living center for
homeless recovering alcohol and drug addicts at 1200 W. National Ave.,
monitors inspected the 12 units and found that a stove in the common
kitchen, the only means residents had for cooking food, was 30 years old had
not worked for two months.

"A door to the property had been damaged when someone drove into the
building and was boarded up for over a month before it was fixed," monitors

There was no on-site supply of light bulbs for Octavia House and there had
been repeated complaints of cockroach and rodent problems in the building,
the monitors said.

A report on the housing program for the homeless and disabled at 1431 W.
Greenfield Ave. says monitors were told that one resident had left the
property because she felt unsafe.

Another resident complained about drug use and prostitution in the building.

HUD expressed concern that there was no on-site supervision there for the
mentally ill clients. Documentation could not be found on the disability of
each resident, which monitors called "critical" in determining whether the
agency can meet the needs of residents.

Appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on June 15, 2001.

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