As Indiana’s eviction and foreclosure moratorium comes to an end, a coalition of housing advocates is warning that as many as 720,000 Hoosiers are at risk of being ousted from their homes.
Gov. Eric Holcomb’s moratorium on evictions, which has been in place since mid-March, expires Friday. The governor chose not to extend the moratorium any further, saying earlier this week that programs exist to assist Hoosiers struggling to pay rent.
Included in those programs is a statewide emergency rental assistance program, which launched with $25 million. Last week, the state added an additional $15 million to the fund.
But advocates have warned the funding won’t be enough to help everyone who needs it and are calling on Holcomb to include a dashboard on the state’s coronavirus response website that would track eviction and rental assistance data.
The Hoosier Housing Needs Coalition, which was launched in May to advocate for housing stability during the COVID-19 pandemic, has issued a series of recommendations it believes would help prevent a wave of evictions in the state. Included is a recommendation for the governor to appoint a Housing Stability Task Force.
In addition to calling on the governor to begin publicly tracking eviction and rental assistance data, the coalition is urging the Indiana Supreme Court to strengthen protections for renters facing COVID-19-related evictions in court.
“The coalition believes that neither the data nor the facts on the ground support lifting the moratorium at this point,” it said in a written statement. “Although the coalition applauds state and municipal leaders for establishing emergency rental assistance programs, the amounts allocated to date are not enough to cover the current list of applicants, much less the estimates of up to 313,000 households at risk of eviction in waves that could last through 2021.”
A new report by The National Low Income Housing Coalition estimates that 30 million to 40 million people in America are at risk of being evicted in the next several months. In Indiana, 569,000 to 720,000 people, or up to 313,000 Hoosier households, could face eviction. That accounts for up to 42% of households.
The data from a COVID-19 housing stability dashboard could inform future policy decisions in order to mitigate the risks of future evictions and homelessness, the Hoosier Housing Needs Coalition said.
The coalition said the dashboard should be updated weekly and include the following information: The number of applicants to state and city rental assistance program by county; the average amount requested by household per county; the number of applications accepted or denied per county and per reason why rejected; the number of evictions filed and completed per county; and the balance remaining in the state’s COVID-19 rental assistance fund.
“Eviction data for Indiana is notoriously difficult and expensive to obtain, with the most recent publicly-available information from 2016,” the coalition said. “And because Indiana is largely relying on partners for outreach about the state rental assistance program, it should arm those partners with up-to-date information about eviction filings and outcomes.”
The coalition has also called on the state’s supreme court to issue a court order to ensure uniform application of the recommendations of a recently created Landlord-Tenant Task Force. The coalition suggests that the court order should elevate its guidelines on evictions for judges to standard practices and that they be strengthened to reduced unnecessary evictions, prevent homelessness and to safeguard public health.
“Unfortunately, the end of the moratorium in no way signals that the threat of evictions and homelessness is now gone. Just the opposite,” Jessica Love, director of Prosperity Indiana, said in written comments. “Not only will the coming tsunami of evictions have a long-term impact on renters, it will also cause lasting devastation on the communities that have been hit hardest by the pandemic job and income losses.”
The National Rental Home Council, a trade association for the single-family rental home industry, is among the groups representing landlords that have spoken out against eviction moratoriums, calling them short-term solutions to long-term problems.
Eventually the moratoriums will come to an end, they say, and millions of renters will owe months and months of back rent they can’t afford to pay. Most landlords cannot afford to stay in business, maintain their properties or pay their mortgages without incoming rental payments, they say.