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Louisville Metro Council members say housing authority is ‘slumlord’

Concrete sign that should say "Dosker Manor" but the "D" is missing. High-rise apartments in the background.
Jacob Ryan
Louisville lawmakers say they want to push for fixes at the troubled Dosker Manor public housing complex.

A group of council members want the Louisville Metro Housing Authority to do a better job maintaining its catalog of complexes, specifically the 685-unit Dosker Manor.

Rosalind Smith is fed up with Dosker Manor.

She’s lived in the public housing complex in downtown Louisville for six years and said it’s filled with bugs, riddled with mold and beset with maintenance problems.

“I don’t think we should have to live like this,” she said

A group of Louisville Metro Council members agree.

On Wednesday, four council Democrats and an Independent showed up outside the complex on Muhammad Ali Boulevard and laid bare their frustrations with the state of the place and its management, and they detailed their plan to fix it.

The three highrise buildings that make up Dosker Manor hold 685 units and most of the people who live there are elderly or disabled.

A 2017 report from the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting found the place was plagued with bedbugs — with some residents complaining multiple times while the problems persisted.

The complex failed three consecutive federally mandated inspections from 2017 to 2018. The complex passed its most recent inspection in 2019 — with a score of 77 out of 100 — but still fell eight points behind the average score for public housing complexes in Kentucky, according to data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Paula McCraney, chair of the council’s majority caucus, said the Louisville Metro Housing Authority is failing the people who call Dosker home.

“This is unacceptable,” she said. “Louisville Metro Housing Authority should be considered slumlords.”

The city’s housing authority manages nearly 3,700 housing units across Louisville, according to its website. Most of the people who live in public housing in Louisville are Black and the average annual income for residents is less than $10,000.

McCraney, who represents District 7 in east Louisville, said it is up to government officials to ensure “the least of us” are taken care of.

“If we don’t take care of the least, the lost, the lonely, the often laughed at and left behind, then we should not be standing here as elected officials,” she said. “This must stop.”

Tammy Hawkins, who represents District 1 in west Louisville, said the housing authority needs new management.

Lisa Osanka was appointed by former Mayor Greg Fischer to lead the city’s housing authority in 2018. Before that, Osanka spent more than two decades in housing and community development, according to a press release announcing her appointment in 2018.

A woman in a gray t-shirt with a University of Louisville Cardinal logo on the front stands in a parking lot.
Jacob Ryan
Rosalind Smith stands outside Dosker Manor after listening to Louisville lawmakers pledge to push for fixes to the troubled public housing complex.

Hawkins said Osanka needs to resign if she doesn’t take the necessary steps to fix the issues at Dosker. If she won’t resign, she should be removed by Mayor Craig Greenberg, she said.

“We need people who have fire and energy to get these things corrected,” Hawkins said.

Osanka said in an email the housing authority’s mission is to “set a standard of operational excellence in providing quality, affordable housing opportunities.”

She said the housing authority’s exterminators do quarterly inspections for bug infestations. And she encouraged any resident with an issue to submit a complaint. For Dosker Manor residents, the number to call is (502) 569-4818.

Jecorey Arthur, who represents District 4, said the issues at Dosker Manor are not new. The complex is in his district, which includes downtown and adjacent neighborhoods, and he’s heard from many residents with complaints of mold on the walls and raw sewage in the shower.

“I talked to a resident of Dosker Manor who said that, at this point, the roaches might as well be helping pay the rent because they’re there as often as he is,” Arthur said.

Arthur said one man told him he was so depressed living in Dosker Manor that he’d considered jumping from his balcony.

“No one should be living like this,” he said.

Rosalind Smith said she doesn’t like to, but she’s got few other options.

She’s on a fixed income and said she pays $200 a month to live in a 10th floor apartment that she tries to keep clean. There aren’t many other places she can afford around the city.

When she moved in, she had high hopes. But now, she doesn’t even want her family to visit because she’s afraid they’d unwittingly take the bed bugs back home with them.

Smith said it was wonderful to see the city’s lawmakers out front, calling for change.

“Maybe something will get done,” she said. “I want to have faith that it will.”

Jacob Ryan is the managing editor of the Kentucky Center for Investigative reporting. He's an award-winning investigative reporter who joined LPM in 2014. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.