INDIANAPOLIS – The Hoosier Housing Needs Coalition is urging Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb to ensure a waitlist and additional resources are made available before closing the state’s COVID-19 Rental Assistance Program Wednesday. More than 200,000 additional Hoosiers are expected to need pandemic-related rental assistance than will be provided through resources that are currently available through state and local government programs. The Coalition also calls on Indiana’s state and federal policymakers to come together to take critical steps to provide protections for renters to prevent the flood of evictions – that started with the end of the state’s moratorium August 14 – from deluging the state.
The Coalition issued an action alert stating concern that closing the rental assistance portal without a waiting list would leave renters in the dark with no way to document their request for assistance if an eviction case is filed against them. It also leaves the state no queue of assistance requests in the case that the program receives additional funds.
“The problem of evictions and housing instability isn’t going to disappear with the premature closure of the state’s rental assistance portal – quite the opposite will occur,” said Jessica Love, Executive Director of Prosperity Indiana. “A waiting list is the least the State of Indiana can do to demonstrate that it hasn’t turned its back on hundreds of thousands of Hoosiers who will continue to need emergency rental assistance as the impacts of the COVID-19 economic downturn continue to ramp up. A waiting list application confirmation could at least show due diligence for the renter attempting to work with their landlord but with limited resources to pay.”
As an example, the Coalition points to the waiting list used by the City of Indianapolis at IndyRent.org (the city’s rental assistance program portal), which will allow the city to contact tenants in the order they appear and invite them to apply once new funds become available. The state could use a similar waiting list to reactivate the state portal as funds are made available from over $1B currently available in CARES Act resources, or from any future coronavirus related funds passed by Congress.
“Working with the City of Indianapolis, I’m optimistic that they have found ways to work with partners on the ground to help make sure the Black and brown residents most impacted by COVID-19 receive rental assistance,” said Derris Ross, CEO/Founder of The Ross Foundation and the Indianapolis Tenants Rights Union. “Indiana needs a more tactical and intentional statewide plan to ensure an equitable housing recovery that reaches all Hoosiers no matter the color of their skin or their ZIP code.”
The Coalition sees the move to close the state’s rental assistance program without a waiting list as inconsistent with the facts on the ground of more than 30,000 applications to the program during its six-week run, compared to the approximately 25,000 households the program will serve (at $2,000 per household) through the $40 million in Coronavirus Relief Funds appropriated by the state. In sharper contrast, estimates indicate that up to 313,000 Hoosier households are at risk of eviction before the end of the year, part of multiple waves of evictions anticipated to last into 2021.
The Coalition reiterates its call for a coordinated statewide Housing Stability policy response to COVID-19, including a Governor-appointed Task Force representing the needs of landlords, tenants, and experts in housing and public health, as well as a Housing Security Dashboard on the state’s coronavirus web site to track eviction data and rent assistance outcomes. The Coalition has also called for a state Court Order to uniformly implement recommendations from the Supreme Court’s Landlord-Tenant taskforce. The Coalition also continues to call on Indiana’s Senators to follow the lead of the House in passing $100B in emergency rental assistance that would meet the estimated need in Indiana and nationwide.
“While the Senate hasn’t yet come through with the resources Indiana needs to serve all COVID-19 impacted renter households, that’s no excuse for the state to shut down its rental assistance program,” said Jessica Fraser, Director of the Indiana Institute for Working Families. “We’ve noticed that Indiana’s Senators have yet to stand up as champions for Hoosiers’ housing stability in negotiations for the next coronavirus package, and we see the impact that’s having here at home. Hopefully the state won’t give up on Hoosier renters before the Senate finishes the job in front of them.”
The Coalition asks Hoosiers to contact their policymakers by responding to the “Don't End Indiana's Emergency Rental Assistance Program!” Action Alert located at Prosperity Indiana’s online Advocacy Action Center. Organizations and individuals who wish to join the Hoosier Housing Needs Coalition and receive updates should also email firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Hoosier Housing Needs Coalition:
Hoosier Housing Needs Coalition (HHNC) was formed by members of Indiana’s housing security advocacy community in April 2020 to support advocacy and education related to housing and homelessness prevention in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Staffed by Prosperity Indiana through advocacy and coalition building grants from the National Low Income Housing Coalition and the Central Indiana Community Foundation, HHNC convenes partners from across Indiana to advocate for immediate, medium- and long-term housing stability policy solutions and conduct education and research to achieve federal, state, and local policies for an equitable response and recovery to the pandemic and beyond.
The HHNC Steering Committee is comprised of members from AARP Indiana, the Coalition for Homelessness Intervention & Prevention (CHIP), Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana, Family Promise of Greater Indianapolis, Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Indiana Institute for Working Families – INCAA, Prosperity Indiana, and The Ross Foundation.