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Head of Louisville’s public housing agency to retire amid criticism

Street-level view up at a brown brick high rise. Letters "OSKER" are missing from the signage that should say "DOSKER MANOR WEST."
Jacob Ryan
Lisa Osanka's resignation follows criticism from elected officials, residents and the Louisville Tenants Union.

Lisa Osanka, executive director of the Louisville Metro Housing Authority, handed in her resignation to Louisville Mayor Craig Greenberg on Thursday.

The housing authority owns and operates thousands of rental units across Jefferson County that are reserved for low-income residents. It also manages the local Section 8 housing voucher program, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

LMHA is a quasi-governmental agency, which operates independently but whose leader is appointed by the mayor. Osanka was tapped to lead the organization in 2018 by then-Mayor Greg Fischer.

District 4 Council Member Jecorey Arthur, an Independent, said Friday morning he was not surprised by news of Osanka’s resignation. Arthur said residents of numerous LMHA-owned properties have accused the agency and the management companies they hire of ignoring mold, bugs and other maintenance issues.

“There’s a very reactive and passive attitude when it comes to public housing and the conditions people are living in,” he said.

In a press release Thursday night, the mayor’s office said Osanka will continue to head LMHA until Greenberg appoints her replacement. Louisville Metro Government will conduct a national search.

Arthur said it’s “an opportunity to make a whole lot of changes,” and he called on the Greenberg administration to include residents in the hiring process.

Courtesy Louisville Metro Government

“I’m hoping we can hire someone who is enthusiastically and intentionally trying to make changes instead of just responding to residents' concerns and cries,” he said. “What can we do at the state level, the federal level to get the funding that we need to address those maintenance requests before they get to the point where they’ve gotten?”

Last month, a group of Metro Council members accused LMHA of failing residents of the Dosker Manor complex near downtown. One council member called on Osanka to resign if she couldn’t fix the problems there.

District 7 Council Member Paula McCraney, who heads the Democratic Caucus, said at that press conference that she thinks the housing authority “should be considered slumlords.” On Friday, she said the next executive director “must have a heart for people.”

“That person must understand housing issues and that person must be bold enough to speak out, whether it’s on the federal government or the local government,” McCraney said.

LMHA owns roughly 3,800 public housing units throughout Jefferson County and manages more than 11,000 Section 8 housing vouchers.

In announcing Osanka’s resignation, Greenberg thanked her for her service to Louisville Metro and said LMHA is “a national leader in neighborhood revitalization and housing development.”

Osanka said in a statement provided by the mayor’s office that it was an honor to lead LMHA.

“I have worked in affordable housing for over 30 years including more than 21 of those with LMHA and as Executive Director for over five,” Osanka said. “Of course, this time includes navigating through a global pandemic and attempting to support fifteen thousand families to stay healthy at home and three hundred employees to stay healthy at work.”

City officials have not said when the national search for a replacement will start.

Roberto Roldan is the City Politics and Government Reporter for WFPL. Email Roberto at rroldan@lpm.org.

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