TESTIMONY REGARDING HB 1495
KATHLEEN LARA, POLICY DIRECTOR
HOUSE FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS COMMITTEE HEARING
JANUARY 23, 2019
Thank you Chairman Burton and Members of the Committee. My name is Kathleen Lara and I serve as the Policy Director for Prosperity Indiana.
Our member network of nearly 200 organizations is working in every region of the state to ensure all Hoosiers can enjoy equal economic and social opportunities and live in thriving communities. Our members are working hard to address the deficit of affordable housing and homeownership opportunities, particularly for low-income households. They are focused on empowering individuals and families to build assets so they can climb the economic ladder.
That is why I stand here today to offer our strong support for this bill, HB 1495, a bill that takes on a pervasive practice undercutting those goals and affecting consumers and communities of all sizes and geographies — the lack of strong state policy regarding land contracts for homeownership.
As you have heard, in states that were hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis, particularly those in the Midwest, thousands of homes became vacant and prime investment opportunities for buyers. Significant portions of this housing stock, however, were blighted, abandoned properties with low appraisals and often severe habitability issues.
Subsequently, we started to see an explosion in the number land contract agreements for these homes where would-be homeowners enter into alternative purchase agreements with companies and the title is transferred at the end of the mortgage, rather than the beginning as you would see with traditional mortgages.
Land contracts are not inherently problematic when interests are aligned. In fact, they have been a viable alternative homeownership model utilized by many non-profits, faith-based organizations, home builders with excess supply, and average Hoosiers selling homes to neighbors, family or friends.
The problem lies in the increasingly common predatory model we have seen where interests are not aligned. In this model, sellers regularly churn would-be owners in and out of properties. These borrowers invest thousands in repairs to the homes only to be evicted when the borrower is inevitably unable to keep up with habitability repairs required for code compliance in addition to loan costs and loses all of their equity.
We have seen these land contracts used to exploit a loophole in state code, subverting state landlord-tenant habitability obligations as well as protections afforded to borrowers with traditional mortgages. In short, the seller makes more when the borrower fails.
In HB 1495, we do not aim to prevent anyone from entering into a land contract for homeownership. We do, however, aim to empower consumers by putting into place protections that increase the transparency of these products for borrowers. These are basic disclosures that are far less extensive than what would be required for a traditional mortgage, but provide enough information to help borrowers understand the basic habitability of a property and more clarity regarding the terms of the contract.
We want to foster affordable avenues to housing stability and homeownership, but ones that allow borrowers to be informed and empowered. I want to express our sincere appreciation to Representatives Summers, Clere and Fleming for taking on this important issue. I urge the members of this committee to support HB 1495 and enact common sense protections for Hoosiers.