Pressed By Kansas City Activists, HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge Agrees To Investigate Millennia Companies
Local housing advocacy groups on Wednesday demanded accountability from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which they said is funding "notorious slumlords" in Kansas City.
Affordable housing was at the forefront of a visit by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge to Kansas City on Wednesday.
Fudge joined Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO) and Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas at 18th and Vine to discuss the increase in housing funding as part of the proposed "American Jobs Plan."
“Most of you, for a year, have been working from your homes, those of you who have homes," Fudge said. "Your kids are going to school from their homes, those who have homes. If housing is not infrastructure, I'm not sure what is."
President Joe Biden’s new infrastructure plan would spend $213 billion on creating and rehabilitating housing across the country. It would also commit $40 billion to improving the country’s public housing system.
Officials announced Saturday that Kansas City will receive $8.3 million in federal money to address homelessness. Lucas said that money will help find resources and wraparound services for people experiencing homelessness, but more work still needs to be done to increase the supply of affordable housing in the metro.
Cleaver, who grew in public housing in Texas, said the issue of affordable housing is critical.
“We've got to recognize the importance of housing. We've got to recognize that it is a part of the human infrastructure, we cannot survive without housing,” Cleaver said.
Members of housing advocacy group KC Tenants showed up at the visit to request a meeting with Fudge, asking her to cut ties with an Ohio-based housing corporation that owns properties in Kansas City.
The group said that Millennia Companies receives hundreds of millions of HUD dollars in project-based vouchers and rental assistance programs. The business ranked #11 on a national list of corporations receiving the most federal subsidies.
Gabriel Tower Apartments, owned by Millennia, has faced a number of complaints over neglect.
“Millennia is notorious slumlords. We feel like they're misappropriating funds, and we want to know what's going on with the funds,” said James Stone, president of the Gabriel Tower Tenant Union.
In 2020, renters at Gabriel Tower raised concerns about a lack of air conditioning that went on for weeks at a time. KC Tenants also said many of the building’s units are in disrepair and have unsafe levels of mold, rodents and pests.
Fudge cut her remarks short to meet with Stone and agreed to launch a full investigation of Millennia Companies. She also committed to a meeting in two to three weeks with the Gabriel Towers Union over Zoom.
“I want you to hold me accountable for the work that HUD does," Fudge said. "That is why I'm here is to make the lives of people better who we serve."
After some scrappy organizing, Pappy got a meeting with @SecFudge. Here he is, asking her to investigate @livemillennia and @FrankTSinito. She committed to do it, and to meet with the union in a few weeks via zoom. @QuintonLucasKC @repcleaver pic.twitter.com/hgw9iC24j0— KC Tenants (@KCTenants) May 26, 2021
In their demands, KC Tenants asked for data from HUD on how much federal money Millennia receives annually, as well as an investigation into their practices across the country.
Fudge assigned Bruce Ladd, Deputy Regional Administrator of HUD, to launch the probe.
“I will treat you with the respect you are due," Fudge told Stone in their meeting. "Get me the information, and I’ll get it done."
Other members of KC Tenant spoke in support of funding for housing in the infrastructure bill. Leader Tiana Caldwell said not having a home limits employment opportunities.
"Anywhere that they go to find a job, it's going to want an address and it becomes an issue. It's imperative that everyone has a safe, healthy, permanently affordable home," Caldwell said.
Fudge is also set to lead a roundtable on job creation through housing construction Wednesday at the Mattie Rhodes Center. The meeting will include Northeast Alliance Together director Scott Wagner, Mattie Rhodes Center President John Fierro, and local small business owners.