Explainer: How Indiana evictions might surge post-moratorium

A federal freeze on most evictions that was enacted last year is scheduled to expire Saturday, after the Biden administration extended the original date by a month. The moratorium put in place by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in September has been the only tool keeping millions of tenants in their homes. Many of them lost jobs during the coronavirus pandemic and have fallen months behind on their rent.

Landlords successfully challenged the order in court, arguing that they also had bills to pay. They pointed out that tenants could access nearly $47 billion in federal money set aside to help pay rents and related expenses.

Advocates for tenants said the distribution of the money had been slow and that more time was needed to distribute it and repay landlords. Without an extension, they feared a spike in evictions and lawsuits seeking to oust tenants who were behind on their rents.

Even with the delay, roughly 3.6 million people in the U.S. as of July 5 said they would face eviction within the next two months, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey. The survey measures the social and economic effects of the pandemic every two weeks through online responses from a representative sample of U.S. households.

Here’s the situation in Indiana:

WHAT’S THE STATUS OF EVICTION MORATORIUMS IN THE STATE?

Indiana is one of several states that enacted a moratorium on eviction proceedings last year, but it expired in August. Despite the state and federal moratoriums, more than 51,000 eviction filings have been made in Indiana during the pandemic, including nearly 16,000 in the Indianapolis metropolitan area, according to Indiana Legal Services.

WHAT’S BEING DONE TO HELP PEOPLE FACING EVICTION?

Housing officials said they’ve been reaching out to landlords in an attempt to reduce the number of impending evictions and encouraging anyone who may be at risk of eviction to apply for rental assistance through their area’s housing authority.

Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett on Thursday also announced a new one-year tenant advocate program that will put a housing liaison in every small claims court in Marion County during the expected surge in evictions.

Andrew Merkley, a housing specialist for the Indianapolis Office of Public Health and Safety, said more funding from the federal American Rescue Plan can still be budgeted toward rental assistance if state and local governments choose to do so.

By September, 60%, or $222.6 million, of the $371 million Indiana received from the federal government to administer rental assistance programs needs to be spent or earmarked. All of the money must be spent or assigned to renters by the end of the year.

HOW ARE THE COURTS HANDLING EVICTION HEARINGS?

Anticipating a spike in eviction petitions after the statewide moratorium ended last summer, the Indiana Supreme Court’s Landlord Tenant Task Force encouraged landlords and tenants to talk to each other, explore options, discuss payment plans and put all agreements in writing. Procedures and practices have varied throughout the state, though many courts have launched mediation programs to provide an alternative to evictions.

Brandon Beeler, housing law center director of Indiana Legal Services, said the organization is preparing for an “influx” of eviction court cases. The state’s largest provider of free civil legal assistance to low-income people has received more than 3,900 legal assistance requests for eviction-related issues since April 2020.

HOW AFFORDABLE IS HOUSING IN THE STATE’S MAJOR RENTAL MARKETS?

Indiana has a gap of 127,000 affordable units statewide, with only 37 available per 100 families that need them, said Andrew Bradley, the policy director for Prosperity Indiana. He added that although Indiana is a low cost-of-living state, small towns and rural communities have reported higher eviction rate surges than in larger municipal areas.

“People who (are low income), they’re spending a lot of their income on housing,” Bradley said. “So if they lost any income during COVID, that really quickly puts them under water.”

As of June, the median monthly rent in the Indianapolis metropolitan area had risen over the past year by 12.8 %, to $1,140, according to a report released July 15 by Realtor.com. Median rents for a one-bedroom apartment rose by 11.5%, while two-bedroom units jumped by 17%.

ARE EVICTIONS EXPECTED TO CREATE A SURGE IN HOMELESSNESS?

A spike in evictions is expected once the CDC moratorium expires, which is what happened when the state’s moratorium expired last year, said Amy Nelson, executive director of the Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana.

Although no statewide data exists, Indiana housing experts estimated that roughly 13% of tenants — about 106,000 Indiana households — are at risk of eviction. Recent census data showed that 28,000 state residents said they were concerned they could be evicted within two months.

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8 thoughts on “Explainer: How Indiana evictions might surge post-moratorium

  1. The moratorium has to end at some point and you cannot put owners in a situation in which they are supposed to eat losses in perpetuity. Landlords will work with tenants that are generally reliable because it’s easier than an eviction. Those that are facing eviction are the ones whose behavior or payment history indicates it’s time to find a better renter.

  2. The entire United States is facing an affordable housing crisis. Indianapolis is no exception. Many landlords are deciding that rentals that used to be good investments providing for retirement are afraid of future government interference. I am a Property Manager in Indianapolis with a specialty in affordable single-family home rentals. 30% of our Investor owners have decided to sell as the renters move rather than continue to lose money. Available rental inventory is at the lowest I have seen in my 41 years as an Investor. The Affordable Housing crisis has increased partly due to the eviction moratorium. The short-sided thinking of the government has created a much longer-term problem that will pl;ace a burden on low income renters for years to come.

  3. What happened to unemployment money, the additional $600/week, then and now $300/week. Plus the stimulus checks, plus the additional funding available to tenants? Due income home, doubles that money. I am not saying put these people on the streets, but I ask the question to where the money went. Bad decisions, vacations, new cars, other priorities. As a landlord of my last condo unit, I worked with my tenants and ate thousands to keep them comfortable, but if I still had multiple units, I would not have been able to do that. Landlords are generally long term investors, so cash flow is low.

    Second thought – why is the Federal Government continuing to pay for peoples day to day living when they are also receiving the extra $300/week, in addition to the continued unemployment. The math doesn’t work for me.

    I hope when school goes back any day now, people will be able to get back to work and back on their feet.

    1. 100% agree with this comment. I’m landlord my self and the math doesn’t add up. People “have” money but for some it just vanishes into thin air. That’s not the property owners fault and they can’t foot the bill forever.

  4. I agree 21R. and would add that the CDC had no right or authority to impose such a mandate. I know that this was new territory so to speak, but it is still a gross violation of civil rights and private property rights of many Americans. The US Supreme Court has validated that and I hope we have learned a lesson in that even in emergencies and unusual circumstances, the rights protected by our constitution must be upheld.

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