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Cyberattack on Indianapolis Housing Agency has landlords, tenants concerned

As the agency works through what it's calling a ransomware attack, landlords are missing rent reimbursements and tenants are getting nervous.

INDIANAPOLIS — Section 8 housing landlords like Bahrishum Gebregziabher are still waiting for the Indianapolis Housing Agency (IHA) to pay them this month. A recent ransomware attack has landlords not only worried about their income but also whether their information has been compromised.

"I don't think IHA knows how much pressure they are putting on the landlords," said Gebregziabher.

Some people say the agency has offered little to no information about the attack, or what is being done aside from a sign posted on one of the agency's doors.

The posted note from IHA reads, in part, "We have been working alongside our internal IT teams and external IT consultants, and we have sought the help of forensics experts to help us address this issue. IHA has also engaged law enforcement, who are working to identify those involved."

Credit: WTHR
Note posted on the door of the Indianapolis Housing Agency on North Meridian Street explaining the agency's process to deal with a ransomware attack.

The note goes on to say that IHA is working with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to ensure payments are made.

"Being transparent about this situation is important," said Gebregziabher. "Everyone is stressed out if I'm going to get kicked out. The landlord doesn't know when he's going to get paid, and he has to pay his mortgages. It's just a vicious cycle." 

Eric Hibbler lives in Barton Towers on Massachusetts Avenue. He said the news left some of his neighbors feeling worried about the future.

"When I first heard about it, I was traumatized a little bit wondering what it is and how it's going to affect me and my residents," said Hibbler.

According to IHA, residents are not at risk of being evicted under the Housing Assistance Payments Contract and HUD regulations, but that hasn't stopped many people from worrying.

Gebregziabher said he is fortunate because he has other streams of income including his construction company, One Home At A Time Roofing and Restoration, to keep him afloat while he waits on his rent payments, but he said other landlords might not be as lucky.

"I think someone as big as them should own up to it and stay in front of it," said Gebregziabher.

Having grown up in affordable housing himself, he said he still believes in the mission of IHA. He hopes this turn of events will provide them with an opportunity to look inward and adjust in hopes of improving things.

"I think it's important to remember that our local landlords are some of our neighbors. We are embedded in our communities and feeling some of the pinch as well," said Gebregziabher.

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