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The eviction crisis: Indiana lawmakers looking at their options

Housing advocates concerned
Posted at 5:54 PM, Jan 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-05 17:54:40-05

INDIANAPOLIS — Discussions of a potential override from the general assembly on a bill already vetoed by Governor Eric Holcomb has the Hoosier Housing Needs Coalition acting quickly.

“We are very concerned that an override of SEA 148 would result in increased evictions and homelessness that would negatively impact Hoosiers public health,” said Jessica Love, Prosperity Indiana executive director.

The Hoosier Housing Needs Coalition is worried.

Last legislative session, Governor Eric Holcomb vetoed bill SEA 148 that would overrule any local city ordinance having to do with landlord-tenant relations, saying it was "overly broad" and prevented almost any type of local control on issues like evictions.

“It would expand the process for expediting evictions, allowing less opportunities for negotiation or voluntary relocation and leading to greater homelessness,” said Love.

It was the only bill the governor vetoed last year and only the second veto of his entire tenure. But discussions of a potential override by the general assembly this year could happen with almost no prior notice or opportunity for public discussion.

“We need to remember that before the COVID pandemic was upon us, Indiana had a housing affordability problem,” said Amy Nelson, Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana executive director. “Indiana had an eviction problem. Indiana had a substandard housing problem. And Indiana had a retaliation and housing discrimination problem. These problems are relatively ignored and have only become more pronounced through the pandemic.”

According to eviction data, Fort Wayne, Indianapolis and South Bend are all within the top 20 major cities with the highest eviction filing rates. Indianapolis is second only to New York City in the number of court ordered evictions.

“What we have seen over several recent general assemblies is only one side to be heard: the industry,” said Nelson. “Which has resulted in the passage of legislation which has pushed Indiana‘s legislation to be overwhelmingly in the landlord's favor.”

Over 2 million Hoosiers rent in our state. That’s 3 in 10 households statewide. An eviction makes it much more difficult to find quality housing or receive rental assistance, especially for the most vulnerable.

“Since March 2020, there’s been 102% increase in domestic violence deaths compared to the same time last year,” said Laura Berry, Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence executive director. “And this directly can be attributed to COVID-19 due to an increase in economic stressors, isolation, alcohol consumption and firearms.”

Doctors say, a child's well-being relies on stable housing.

“Studies have shown that homelessness and housing insecurity increase the risk for medical problems such as ear infections, respiratory infection and asthma, scabies and lice,” said Dr. Abby Esker with the Indiana Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. “Much of this risk comes from a family being forced into a transient living situation, homeless shelters or crowded living spaces.”

“These are hard-working Hoosiers, these are responsible Hoosiers, who have had their livelihoods impacted through no fault of their own,” said James Taylor, John H. Boner Community Center CEO. “During a national health emergency is the wrong time to go back on local rental protections. In fact, it’s the time to actually be spent on increasing protections to help stabilize families.”