By Jordan Cohen
The executive director of a nonprofit housing organization that owes $187,000 in back taxes says he is working on a plan that will avert foreclosures and eviction of occupants of its homes.
“We’re not trying to walk away from anything,” said Anthony Iannucci, executive director of Sunshine Inc., the nonprofit created to provide affordable housing for lower- and moderate- income families.
Iannucci found himself on the firing line of Warren City Council Health and Welfare Committee Tuesday because of Sunshine’s delinquent property taxes and the threat by Trumbull County Treasurer Sam Lamancusa to foreclose on 87 homes. Foreclosures would lead to evictions of the occupants even though they are making their rent or mortgage payments.
Some of those residents attended the meeting.
“I’m telling the treasurer, ‘Let’s work together on a tax-payment plan,’ and he’s indicated he would be willing,” Iannucci told the committee. After the meeting, he told The Vindicator he hoped to present a plan to the treasurer within 30 days. He estimated it could take as many as five years for the nonprofit to pay its back taxes.
Iannucci said Sunshine’s top priorities for its working capital are mortgage payments, insurance and maintenance. “There wasn’t sufficient cash flow to keep up with taxes,” he told the committee.
He said some of Sunshine’s homes have been ruined by vandalism and cannot be sold. “There are 20 homes stripped of plumbing and wiring … and those houses have to come down,” he said.
He said Sunshine’s debt became unmanageable long before he became its executive director because of its “haste to acquire properties that should not have been purchased.” He said he hopes to cut some of those costs by working out a plan with Huntington Bank to make one monthly “blanket payment” for 61 mortgages, which would reduce a monthly payment of $7,000.
“We are seeing an improvement in cash flow, and all our rental properties are rented,” Iannucci said.
However, council members are equally angry over Sunshine’s refusal to provide transparency about its finances and decisions. Iannucci has emphasized that Sunshine, as a nonprofit, is not required to disclose its finances, which he compares to JobsOhio, the controversial economic-development group created by Gov. John Kasich which also has rebuffed efforts at disclosures.
Councilman Al Novak said council’s inability to get that information has led four of its members to sign a request for a state audit of Sunshine.
Councilwoman Helen Rucker said council should consider giving some projects to another community development group, and Councilman Vincent Flask said council should not continue to fund Sunshine.
Iannucci later said council should take their questions to the community- development director.