INDIANAPOLIS — Every day in Indiana 86 families or nearly 32,000 a year are evicted from their homes, an event that will end up making it more difficult for them to find a place they can afford.
That statistic was shared Wednesday by Prosperity Indiana, an economic development organization that works to provide resources and advocacy to strengthen local communities.
Nearly half of all Hoosiers who rent are burdened by the cost because they are paying more than 30% of their monthly income on housing, said Jessica Love, executive director of Prosperity Indiana.
Across the state there is a lack of affordable housing for low-income individuals, she added. In fact, Indianapolis has the 14th highest eviction rate among large cities in the United States, according to their data.
“While we’re sharing some dire statistics and trends today, we’re not doing so to indicate that the situation is hopeless,” Love said. “Rather, we want to encourage more voices to speak up now on what is happening to Hoosiers who are housing unstable and build support for the best solutions at the federal, state and local levels.”
Prosperity Indiana joined the Coalition for Homelessness Intervention and Prevention (CHIP), the IU Public Policy Institute and the National Low Income Housing Coalition at the Horizon House in Indianapolis to discuss the affordable housing issue. They stressed the need for advocacy to advance state and federal policy solutions.
Love said two bills filed in the 2019 legislative session would have helped prevent evictions and ensure renters live in safe housing, but they both failed to pass.
Senate Bill 524, authored by Sen. Eddie Melton, D-Gary, would have expanded legal aid to tenants in crisis, and it would have made it a criminal offense to rent a condemned property. It was assigned to the Commerce and Technology Committee and never got a hearing.
Senate Bill 422, which was authored by Sen. Mike Bohacek, R-Michiana Shores, would have allowed tenants to terminate a lease if basic habitability standards were not met within a reasonable time frame after moving in. The bill got out of the Judiciary Committee but never got a vote on the floor of the full Senate.
Kathleen Lara, policy director for Prosperity Indiana, said the biggest reason the legislation failed was because the issue had not been addressed in more than 10 years and a general lack of testimony in favor of the bills.
Michael Hurst, an attorney with Indiana legal services, has been part of a project to make the eviction process less transactional in Indiana and provide counsel. In six months, Hurst has handled 178 referrals.
“I kept the eviction of their record, but when push came to shove, they were not able to find alternative, affordable housing to go to,” he said, explaining that most of his clients are single mothers who cannot find housing they can afford.
Prosperity Indiana reports that an individual making minimum wage would have to work 86 hours a week to afford a two-bedroom apartment at a fair market rate in the state.
Love said a larger coalition of people and groups would bring more options and policy changes.
“We’ve said it’s not legal to put people in a home that’s not habitable,” she said. “But there’s also nothing happening really to enforce that.”
Abrahm Hurt is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.