Contact: Jessica Love, Executive Director, firstname.lastname@example.org, 317-222-1221 x402
Andrew Bradley, Policy Director, email@example.com, 317-222-1221 x403
INDIANAPOLIS – On Tuesday, March 17, 18 statewide organizations asked Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb to veto SEA 148, citing the bill’s “dangerous, unvetted language that would worsen Indiana’s affordable housing and eviction crisis.” The timing of this bill could not be worse because it could have a disastrous effect on the health and safety of renters at a time when the COVID-19 coronavirus has already caused a public health crisis of its own.
“While those who are fortunate enough to do so are currently working from the comforts of home to flatten the curve for COVID-19, sadly, many Hoosiers’ housing stability will be shaken further by this bill – when we can least afford it as a state – if the governor signs it into law,” said Jessica Love, Executive Director of Prosperity Indiana.
The letter to the governor comes from affordable housing developers, religious groups, medical and legal assistance providers, and organizations representing older Hoosiers, veterans, domestic violence survivors, the homeless, and other vulnerable populations. It follows a call from nearly 300 organizations and individuals statewide who signed a letter to the General Assembly opposing the legislation, which first appeared as a surprise last-minute amendment to SB 340, and that was passed without standard public deliberation or debate during the last two weeks of session.
SEA 148 is a substantial change in law that affects the lives of over 30 percent of Indiana’s population, the more than two million people who rent their homes. Research shows that access to affordable housing acts as a “vaccine” that paves the way to health and economic mobility, while housing insecurity and homelessness negatively impact the health, safety, education and development of children. As the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps across the state, SEA 148 would undermine public health by undercutting access to safe and stable housing.
Advocates point to existing Indiana efforts, such as the Governor’s recovery housing and workforce housing initiatives, and to provision of safe and stable housing as a means of improving health outcomes and decreasing health costs, as positive steps for Hoosiers. SEA 148 would hinder Indiana’s ability to reach the ‘next level’ of public health by substantially changing existing landlord-tenant law to diminish state protections for renters. Also, stripping local governments of the ability to take action to improve housing quality and stabilize rental housing, unless specifically permitted by the state legislature, will create dangerous delays that could worsen significant health conditions already prevalent in the state. These include rates of asthma, lead poisoning, mental illness, maternal mortality, and opioid-related deaths.
Changes to Indiana’s landlord-tenant law in previous years followed full vetting in both the House and Senate after many compromises from representatives of both landlords and tenants were made. But this year, the section of SEA 148 impacting tenants was not afforded any full or fair democratic process, and no opportunity for formal input by those concerned was provided. As a result, no balance in the language for renters was achieved. Specifically, this language was never filed as a bill and never heard in any committee of the Senate. It was not posted for hearing in the House to be considered as an amendment to its original bill. The language of this amendment was not available to the public until after it passed out of committee that same day. When the language was later moved to SEA 148 in conference committee, the Senate conference committee chair initially announced there would be no public testimony allowed. Under protest from other conferees, still only two people were allowed to speak. After questions generally relating to how many ordinances would be affected – to which no one knew the answer, the hearing abruptly ended.
The imbalanced bill – favoring landlords – allows accelerated emergency eviction procedures to be used in an expanded class of cases. This includes instances in which a tenant – having committed no violation of law or lease – can be evicted in three days. It also omits standard code provisions that prevent landlords from simply eliminating or changing the limited retaliation protections afforded by SEA 148 through a non-negotiable lease. It further arbitrarily preempts the ability of all local governments throughout the state to regulate any aspect of the landlord-tenant relationship. These measures and allowances are considered extreme, especially since they were passed without having studied or surveyed existing local ordinances and regulations throughout the state to determine how they would be nullified.
According to the group calling for the veto, “Given the potential damage to Indiana’s housing and public health, it is imperative that Governor Holcomb not allow SEA 148 to become law. Legislation this significant, which impacts millions of Hoosiers across all walks of life, should be studied, examined, and debated, through a truly democratic process.”
Resources: Letter Urging Gov Holcomb to Veto SEA148
Letter to Senate Opposing SB340 (signed by 300+ statewide orgs and individuals)
Legal Concerns of SEA148
Evicted- Hoosiers in Housing Crisis
Health and Housing in Indiana
Hoosier Housing Crisis: By the Numbers
City of Fort Wayne SB340 Opposition Letter
Dr. Sarah Stelzner Statement for Press Conference on Landlord Tenant Issue
About Indiana Association for Community Economic Development D/B/A Prosperity Indiana
Prosperity Indiana is a statewide membership organization for the individuals and organizations strengthening Hoosier communities. Prosperity Indiana builds a better future for our communities by providing advocacy, leveraging resources, and engaging an empowered network of members to create inclusive opportunities that build assets and improve lives. Since its founding in 1986, Prosperity Indiana has grown to approximately 200 members from the public, private, and nonprofit sectors.