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Published: Friday, 8/24/2012

U.S. funds diocesan housing entities

Monthly payments reach $480,000

BY KATE GIAMMARISE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Several limited liability corporations and nonprofits closely tied to the Diocese of Toledo receive up to $480,000 from the federal government every month for hundreds of low-income housing units, including a violence-plagued housing complex near downtown.

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Moody Manor's ownership receives up to $56,700 every month from the federal government for 119 units of housing.

A 1-year-old child was shot and killed at Moody Manor on Aug. 9, sparking a major community outcry. Her 2-year-old sister was wounded in the same shooting. The complex's ties to the diocese have upset some.

"Have they gotten comfortable with just making the federal money?" said Pastor Cedric Brock, pastor of Mount Nebo Baptist Church on Detroit Avenue and president of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance.

Pastor Brock has asked to meet with Toledo Bishop Leonard Blair about the complex, as has Larry Sykes, a Toledo Board of Education member.

Msgr. Michael Billian, president of Mareda Inc., the diocese's low-income-housing corporation, said in a statement emailed to The Blade through a diocesan spokesman that the Bishop's Office had not received any requests for meetings from Pastor Brock or Mr. Sykes. Msgr. Billian did meet Tuesday with Mayor Bell and other city and police officials.

Diocesan spokesman Sally Oberski said the housing program is part of the church's mission.

"This goes a long way back to what Catholics do," she said. "We feed the hungry. We house the poor." Ms. Oberski emphasized the Diocese itself receives no money from HUD.

In total, seven different limited liability corporations affiliated with the diocese receive up to $480,700 every month for hundreds of project-based Section 8 units, according to information from HUD obtained by The Blade.

The Moody Manor complex is owned by Moody Manor LLC, which is owned by Mareda Inc. Mareda's sole member is Bishop Blair. Its president is Msgr. Billian.

Mareda's executive director is paid $275,000 annually, according to the group's 2010 tax returns, the most recent available. He was paid $221,996 in 2009 and $441,892 in 2008, according to the returns. The most recent returns state Mareda has revenue of $582,589 and zero employees.

The salary puts Mareda's head among the top earners regionally in the nonprofit field. The average salary for a nonprofit CEO in the Toledo area is $75,881, according to a survey conducted last year by the Center for Nonprofit Resources, part of the Toledo Community Foundation.

The compensation is not paid through Mareda, but through the for-profit Vistula Management and another related entity.

While Vistula and Mareda are technically separate entities, the two share many ties.

Vistula Management, which manages Moody Manor and the other properties associated with Mareda, was founded by John Kiely, a former Mareda executive director. Vistula is responsible for the management of all housing properties under the control of the Catholic Diocese of Toledo, according to its Web site.

Vistula and Mareda share the same Scottwood Avenue address, according to multiple documents.

Andrew Kott, Mareda's current executive director, also identified himself to a Blade reporter as a Vistula employee.

Mr. Kott emphasized the organizations work to provide social programs to residents at Moody Manor, such as a children's reading room, computer classes, GED classes, and empowerment programs.

Msgr. Billian's statement emphasized Vistula is not a nonprofit entity and it also services other complexes in the area not owned by Mareda.

"We continue to be satisfied with Vistula's work," he wrote.

Mr. Kott said, in the wake of the recent shooting, Vistula is examining security procedures and "what has to be done to make these properties as safe as we possibly can."

Msgr. Billian stated Mareda has made "a significant financial commitment to upgrade security" in the seven Section 8 complexes affiliated with Mareda. "This year we have committed $381,407 for security with the largest portion going to the Moody Manor -- $154,044."

Mareda's tax records list several other Toledo apartment complexes as affiliated with the organization, though all are organized under their own separate LLC. Among the other affiliated projects are Madonna Homes Inc., 722 N. Huron St.; Michaelmas Manor, 3260 Schneider Rd., and Regina Manor Apartments at 3731 North Erie St.

Also included in Mareda's portfolio are The Plaza, 2520 Monroe St.; Doves Manor, 1040 Brookview Drive, and Delaware Acres, located in Fremont. The homes are project-based Section 8 housing -- housing that is privately owned, with the federal government subsidizing the rent for low-income tenants.

Section 8 housing is different from traditional public housing, where a public housing authority owns and manages housing units.

Lance Freeman, an associate professor at Columbia University who studies housing issues, said project-based Section 8 complexes arose because "there was an idea that the private sector could better manage affordable housing than the government."

In recent years, there has been a move away from such types of complexes that tend to concentrate more low-income tenants, Mr. Freeman said, in favor of Section 8 vouchers, which allow tenants to move to a privately owned house or apartment of their choice.

Laura Feldman, a spokesman for HUD's Region V office in Chicago, said the agency works with management of project-based Section 8 complexes to provide safe housing and make sure property management is properly screening applicants for tenancy.

Some residents have said they believe the complex should be shut down.

"To me, and this is my opinion, you need to close it down," Sharmella Harris, 23, told The Blade recently. "This isn't happening anywhere else. Tear it down. You close it down and then what? It's still the Moody Manor. It's just so bad out here."

An emailed statement from Bishop Blair states, in part, "We will not be intimidated by those who would turn our neighborhoods into ganglands, and we pledge to continue to stand firm with the residents we serve. As many have pointed out, only a community effort can remedy the causes and heal the effects of growing alienation, hopelessness and violence."

The statement goes on to say: "I will be asking the members of the Toledo Catholic community, at the diocesan and parish levels, to look at ways in which we can help, and I pledge our cooperation with all people of good will in Toledo who are striving to do the same."

Ms. Feldman said the agency pulling any funding for the complex was unlikely, as it prefers to work to make developments safer, rather than diminish the supply of affordable housing in a community.

Contact Kate Giammarise at: kgiammarise@theblade.com or 419-724-6091 or on Twitter @KateGiammarise.



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