Fox 8 Defenders: Proposal to reconsider neglectful nonprofit landlords’ tax-exempt status advances in legislature

Published: Apr. 12, 2023 at 6:29 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - State lawmakers on Wednesday (April 12) advanced a proposal that would punish nonprofit landlords who own rental homes or apartments deemed unsafe, after our Fox 8 Defenders reports exposed what residents called dangerous conditions inside their homes.

Speaking before the House Ways and Means committee, State Rep. Jason Hughes (D-New Orleans) and New Orleans City Councilwoman Helena Moreno outlined why they believe House Bill 46 -- written by Hughes -- is so desperately needed.

“All citizens in this state, Mr. Chairman, deserve a quality place to live,” Hughes said. “And so what this bill does, it simply says if you are a bad actor, you should not be rewarded by the taxpayers of Louisiana.”

Moreno told the committee, “Fox 8 News in New Orleans has done a whole series of stories on this whole situation and followed this particular owner, because he’s had issues in other states as well.”

The lawmakers were referencing minister Richard Hamlet, CEO of Global Ministries Foundation, or the GMF Preservation of Affordability Corporation. The Tennessee-based religious nonprofit owns The Willows apartments in New Orleans East, Parc Fontaine apartments in Algiers and The Bellemont apartments in Metairie.

“You’ve been out there with us,” Moreno told Fox 8. “You’ve listened to the residents and their pleas for help.”

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

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

Our reports documented living conditions at the three complexes. Last May, Caroline Bailey showed us the hole in her ceiling, with water dripping onto her carpet. In September, Creston Delay had water leaking in his kitchen that soaked the carpet in his bedroom, forcing him to sleep in a corner of the room that wasn’t wet. We’ve also shown how code enforcement violations racked up at the properties.

“We have cited one property in particular -- called The Willows in New Orleans East -- 40 times,” Moreno told lawmakers. “They have received guilty violations for code enforcement issues, life safety issues.”

Because of its nonprofit status, GMF doesn’t pay a dime in property taxes. This proposal could change that. It would empower local municipalities to revoke a nonprofit’s tax-exempt status, if it owns occupied homes or apartments that receive three or more code enforcement violations.

“Once we put them on the tax roll, if they have code enforcement liens, they can’t pay their taxes until those liens are done,” Moreno said.

The proposed constitutional amendment advanced Wednesday out of the committee. Moreno said it ultimately could be a valuable tool for local leaders trying to help people who sometimes can’t move out of what could be a dangerous situation.

“They are, like, trapped in these places where these owners are making all of this money off of them. And trapping people in unsafe and unhealthy places ... like how, how more un-Christian can that be, right?”

The proposal now moves to the full House for a vote. If it makes it out of the legislature, the constitutional amendment would be put on the October ballot for voters to decide.

Hamlet previously told us that the tax exemption has no correlation to a property’s physical or operating condition. He also told us he’s put millions of dollars into his properties to improve them.

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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