From: Mark Lindenlaub, executive director Housing Partnerships Inc. (doing business as Thrive Alliance)
For the first time in its history, Housing Partnerships Inc. (HPI) is selling homes, displacing families and reducing the number of affordable rental homes.
HPI (now Thrive Alliance) purchased its first rental house in 1995. By the end of 2000, HPI had invested in 22 homes that it owned, managed and paid property taxes on. HPI invested in older homes, in great need of repair. HPI leveraged resources to rehabilitate the houses into safe, affordable homes for families.
In 2000, Indiana changed its property tax system, which erased the tax advantage for older homes. This change made HPI’s affordable rental program financially impossible. HPI operates on a slim margin. Unlike a private developer, HPI protects its renters from increased costs through long-term rent limit commitments.
In 2002, HPI applied for property tax exemption for the first time, and it was granted.
Encouraged by this decision, HPI resumed its investments in affordable housing. In 2004, HPI applied for property tax exemption, and again it was granted. Responding to the strong need for affordable rental housing, HPI ramped up its program, securing financing for 52 additional homes.
With their program in full swing, HPI applied for the exemption again in 2006. This time the request was denied, though HPI was not notified until March 2007. The assessor claimed that HPI was not providing a “charitable purpose.” This same assessor had previously declared many of the same properties exempt under the same law, twice before.
This reversal by the Bartholomew County assessor financially destroyed HPI’s affordable rental program.
In 2006, Bartholomew County began assessing property taxes on HPI properties. HPI appealed. The appeal process starts with the county assessor and ends with the Indiana Tax Court and ultimately the Indiana Supreme Court. HPI followed the legal appeal process, concluding in 2015 when the Supreme Court declined to hear the case.
After the Supreme Court declined to hear the case, HPI worked with county officials to recalculate the correct assessed values and taxes owed. Within a matter of days, HPI paid the corrected tax amount, over $314,000.
Throughout the appeal process, the county billed HPI annually for taxes based on assessed values that were calculated incorrectly, charged penalties and fees, and brought HPI properties to the tax sale five different times.
Bartholomew County officials insist that HPI owes penalties and fees they imposed while HPI followed the appeals process, approximately $234,000. In response, HPI appealed these penalties and fees with the Indiana Board of Tax Review.
We strongly believe we provide a charitable purpose. We strongly believe that it makes no sense legally or logically for the county to penalize us for following the legal appeal process.
Anyone who supports HPI and believes our work is a charitable purpose should contact their city and county elected officials. Meanwhile, we will continue our mission of providing affordable housing in the community, and work to minimize the negative impact of these forced sales on our client families.