INDIANAPOLIS — As the looming CDC federal moratorium on evictions is coming to an end, local Indiana legislators and community leaders are coming together to discuss what this means for thousands of Hoosiers.
The moratorium was keeping thousands of people in their homes, while many struggled during the pandemic and were unable to pay their rent.
Now, many fear when June 30 rolls around, landlords will immediately file for eviction and people will be at risk of becoming homeless. In fact, an estimated 10,000 evictions are pending right now in Marion County courts alone. Roughly 100,000 Hoosier households statewide are at risk at eviction.
“I don’t know where I would go but to the shelter if I get evicted,” Wesley Lee said. “And that’s a scary thought.”
Lee fears he’s one of the people at immediate risk of eviction after his landlord already tried filing last year, but the federal moratorium protected him.
“I’m worried,” Lee said. “I’m scared that I might have to move out anytime.”
“Many tenants at this point in this state are over a year behind in rent because of the pandemic,” Brandon Beeler, Director of Housing Law Center, Indiana Legal Service said.
On Tuesday, legislators and community leaders gathered to discuss what’s going to happen to the thousands at risk of eviction. Indianapolis, alone, was the second highest city in the country for court-ordered evictions even before the pandemic.
“We see the worst of it in Marion County during normal times,” Deputy Mayor Jeff Bennett said. “We are a high eviction county: 12,000-13,000 households a year.”
Bennett said they’re working on a solution, though, putting Pro Bono attorneys in court rooms. It is something that was not provided ever before for evictions.
“We intend in partnership with Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic and Indiana Legal Services to put attorneys in the small claims court, where any tenant who is present and facing eviction can have access to free legal counsel on site,” Bennett said. “And then the second part of that is connecting that tenant and that attorney with the rental assistance program in hopes that there are some where we can intervene at the last minute.”
He explained the county and state still have additional CARES Act funding money for rental assistance that people need to be connected with. City staff will be monitoring eviction filings to make sure they intervene with this new strategy on free legal counsel once it’s up and running.
The Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority is working on outreach to underserved areas and property managers through the Indiana Apartment Association to make them aware of additional rental assistance program money.