An End to “Slumlord City”? City to Help Relocate Tenants of Joshua Bruno

Washington Place, by Metrowide Apartments. Big Easy Magazine Staff Photo

Joshua Bruno, the owner/landlord of Metrowide Apartments filed for bankruptcy last Thursday on five low-income apartment complexes. In 2020, Big Easy Magazine reported on the state of one of those complexes as part of our series Slumlord City: How New Orleans Rentals are Failing Working Families. 

The properties to undergo reorganization include:

  • Oakmont Apartments
  • Cypress Park Apartments
  • Liberty Park Apartments
  • Washington Place Apartments

Washington Place Apartments was the subject of our previous reporting. Together, the complexes include over 450 units, with many inhabited by tenants receiving government subsidies. According to Bruno, the bankruptcy is a result of a move by the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) to foreclose on those properties. Bruno claims to have lost millions during the pandemic shutdowns, and that Fannie Mae “duped” him into not paying on his mortgages by promising another forbearance that it then reneged on. Fannie Mae has dismissed that claim.

As part of the foreclosure proceedings, Fannie Mae requested that a judge appoint a “keeper” to oversee the properties. Following Hurricane Ida the New Orleans Renters’ Rights Assembly joined tenants and advocates in the legal fight, and Orleans Parish Civil District Judge Nicole Sheppard ordered Bruno to address a list of badly needed repairs. That deadline passed with little action, however.

The bankruptcy filing puts an end to the Civil District legal fight and Sheppard’s control over the court battle. Instead, Bruno now has up to 18 months to develop a reorganization plan that could help him hang on to the properties – depending on bankruptcy negotiations with Fannie Mae and other creditors. One of those creditors is the New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board, which claims Bruno owes about $1.8 million from the five properties.

For tenants, the City acknowledges that may be too long to wait on much-needed repairs. On Friday, the Mayor’s Office of Housing Policy and Community Development announced that the City will offer tenants who wish to relocate an unnamed amount of relocation assistance.

“The City is aware of the bankruptcy filing by Joshua Bruno for the Oakmont, Cypress Park, Forest Park Liberty Park and Washington Place Apartments located in Algiers,” said Marjorianna Willman, Director of OCD. “The Courts enforced financial restructuring and management oversight, presenting an opportunity for the housing units to be fully rehabilitated. The City is offering current tenants who wish to relocate assistance with moving costs and will provide past due rent balances of up to twelve months for tenants that are eligible through the New Orleans Emergency Rental Assistance Program.”

Any tenant who has questions or concerns regarding the assistance can contact OCD by calling 504-658-4232 or visit the office at 1340 Poydras St, on the 10th floor.

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