Fox 8 Defenders: Lawmakers to revisit tax-exempt status of nonprofits doubling as landlords after troubling reports

Published: Apr. 11, 2023 at 10:25 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WVUE) - After a series of Fox 8 investigations, state lawmakers on Wednesday (April 12) will hear a proposal that would strip nonprofits of their tax-exempt status if they own potentially dangerous homes or apartments.

Our reports exposed substandard living conditions at apartments owned by a controversial religious nonprofit, prompting State Rep. Jason Hughes (D-New Orleans) to propose a change to the state constitution.

Winnie Boyd lives at The Willows in New Orleans East. She sent Fox 8 pictures of the ceiling in her living room on Tuesday. She says there’s a spot on the ceiling that is covered in mold and she’s got a plastic bag over it to prevent water from leaking onto her floor.

We first met Boyd last October, when she told us, “If the owner is owning this, he needs to have his behind come from Tennessee or wherever he’s coming from and come see his property.”

Our extensive reporting on The Willows, Parc Fontaine apartments in Algiers and The Bellemont apartments in Metairie showed what residents describe as deplorable living conditions.

This past February, 14-year-old Niyasia Clay showed us The Bellemont apartment where she was living.

“My sisters are getting sick, my momma, she’s doing a lot. But there’s not much she can do, all of this. It’s kind of a mess for five kids to live in,” Clay said.

Global Ministries Foundation or GMF Preservation of Affordability Corporation -- a religious nonprofit out of Tennessee -- owns all three complexes. Because it’s a nonprofit, GMF doesn’t pay a dime in property taxes.

“At the end of the day they’re slumlords,” Hughes said. “They’re not doing right by residents and they do not deserve public money.”

Our reporting prompted Hughes to propose a constitutional amendment. It would give local municipalities the power to determine if a property owned by a nonprofit is a health or safety risk. If it is, the group’s tax-exempt status could be pulled.

“That would give the (New Orleans) City Council the authority to force The Willows to pay property tax,” Hughes said.

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Fox 8 Defenders: A year of deplorable living conditions in New Orleans

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Fox 8 Defenders: State rep. files legislation to force non-profits property owners to pay taxes

Fox 8 Defenders: The Bellemont Apartments, a bill to pull tax exemption from non-profit property owners

Tax documents from GMF showed that in 2019 the nonprofit brought in more than $42 million in revenue from its housing complexes across the country. Hughes argues the nonprofit should use some of that money to pay property taxes, if it can’t maintain a safe environment for its renters.

His proposal will be heard Wednesday by lawmakers in the House Ways and Means committee. If it passes the committee, it moves to the full House for a vote. If this proposal passes the legislature, it would be put on the October ballot as a proposed amendment to let voters decide if a change to the state constitution is warranted.

If you have a consumer complaint you’d like us to look into, call the Fox 8 Defenders, staffed with volunteers from the National Council of Jewish Women at 1-877-670-6397. Or click here to fill out our online complaint form, which is the easiest way to reach us.

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