Concerns Raised As Income-Based Housing Complex Goes Under New Ownership

Many residents and community leaders are concerned about the uncertain future for many tenants of an income-based affordable housing complex in Evansville. An out-of-state, private company purchased the mortgage of Lincoln Estates at sheriff's sale last year, according to property records. As a result of the ownership change, many of the 112 tenants are being forced out, including dozens of people on federally-subsidized Section 8 housing, multiple residents said.

The units at Lincoln Estates serve people who are at or below 80% area media income. As many as 40 of the 112 units at the complex serve those who are on Section 8.

In late April, resident said they received eviction letters from the property manager, leaving many of the cash-strapped tenants with just weeks to find a new place to live. Thirteen of the tenants were evicted because they were delinquent on their payments, according to the Evansville Housing Authority.

The city has never had any ownership stake in the company nor is it involved in the complex's operations, city officials said.

The complex was built as part of a tax credit program where investors would help cover the cost of construction. Among the investors were banks and the Evansville Housing Authority. Last year, once the 15-year compliance period ended, the Evansville Housing Authority offered to buy out the remainder on the mortgage but the bank refused and foreclosed on the property. The complex was later sold to the out-of-state private company at a sheriff's sale. Residents said they were being evicted so the new owners could renovate the property.

The sale and subsequent evictions have left the financially-challenged residents of the complex even more hard-pressed to find a place to live.

"It's kind of hard when you don't have [money] and you're forced to move. It causes issues,"
said Yvette Fellows. "You've got to pay a new deposit, the move-in fee and rent a U-Haul. When you're on a low income, it's not cheap at all."

The concerns were quickly brought to Rev. Adrian Brooks, the lead pastor of Memorial Baptist Church. Many of the people in Rev. Brook's congregation live at the complex.

"I hear people talk about, 'well, that's the open market system at work,' but there is a certain thing called compassion,"  Rev. Brooks said. "We understand that [it's a private business] but there are some lives of very vulnerable people and poor folks that we need to find a better way to respond to."

While he understands the city is powerless in getting involved in the operations of the complex, Brooks said the city can help provide assistance to those who are being displaced. Such assistance, which would include helping to cover moving expenses, could be provided through the city's Affordable Housing Trust Fund, Brooks said.

"If you've got private enterprise development and some displacement, there should be some accommodations because these are vulnerable city," Brooks said. "They don't have a lot of resources. We need to show sensitivity to that. We also need to talk about the need for affordable housing."

City officials said the Affordable Housing Trust Fund is already at a low level because money has been pledged to help another affordable housing venture in the city.

With the city's efforts in redeveloping the downtown and Haynie's Corner areas, Brooks said he'd like to see similar efforts made in the Center City. City officials and Kelley Coures, the executive director of the Department of Metropolitan Development, point to the nearly $3 million in federal grant money given to Memorial Community Development Corporation, the non-profit arm of Brooks' church, in the past five years. According to city records, Memorial C.D.C. has created 34 housing units in the past five years. However, Brooks said much of that money granted by the city has gone to the corporation's various programs including summer employment, daycare and other community enrichment ventures.

"This is not us against the city. We've been in partnership with the city for a long time but that partnership needs to expand in terms of resources," Brooks said. "We've got a 3,000 to 4,000 affordable housing shortage in our community."

Brooks said it will take a community-wide effort to help those being displaced at Lincoln Estates. In the future, it will take a collaborative venture from Memorial C.D.C., the city, the Evansville Housing Authority and area non-profits like ECHO Housing in order to help provide more affordable housing as well as help those impacted by ownership changes at apartment complexes.

Previous Update (1:33 p.m.)

Eyewitness News has spoken with several residents of Lincoln Estates, who tell us that they were given very little notice that they would have to move. This has created hardships as many of them are on fixed or low incomes.

As many as 40 tenants of the total 112 units are on Section 8 housing, which complicates matters even further because of the challenges associated with Section 8 housing.

We also spoke to Rev. Adrian Brooks of Memorial Baptist Church, who says more needs to be done in order to help these residents find affordable housing. A mechanism to do that could include the usage of the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, which could be used to help provide money to offset relocation expenses.

Rev. Brooks says he's fully aware that the complex is owned by a private entity but it's up to the community to help those who are less fortunate. That will be the main point of his argument at Traveling City Hall on Wednesday night.

Original Story

Many residents and community leaders in Evansville's Center City are expressing concerns about the future of Lincoln Estates Apartments. According to property records, the complex has undergone an ownership change and the future of many of the tenants there -- some of whom are low income -- is in question. The property is now owned by Bayview Loan Servicing LLC, a Florida-based company.

Rev. Adrian Brooks, the pastor at Memorial Baptist Church, shared the following public post on his Facebook page:


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