Policy News

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  • 20 Nov 2019 3:53 PM | Kathleen Lara (Administrator)

    There was a sea of red at the Statehouse yesterday on Org Day as tens of thousands of teachers rallied as lawmakers returned for the ceremonial start of the 2020 legislative session. Legislators spent much of the day meeting with educators urging action on compensation, testing reforms and repealing certain professional development mandates. 

    As attention was focused on the #RedforEd movement, there wasPhoto Robert ScheerIndySta additional big news from House leadership as Speaker Brian Bosma announced he will retire after this session to move to a “national legislative campaign role.” Republicans in the House will confirm his replacement in the next two weeks. (Photo Source: Robert Scheer/IndyStar).

    Prosperity Indiana's policy staff shared our 2020 State Priorities (see below) with numerous legislators throughout the day as well and specific legislation we are working with lawmakers to craft to address the critical 

    concerns of our members! 

    These efforts are focused on ensuring Hoosiers can remain in or gain access to safe, stable, and affordable housing and expanding consumer protections to more low-income households build and retain assets.

    The best way you can prepare right now to help us advance these priorities is to register for our Statehouse Day on Tuesday, January 14, 2020, from 1-4 p.m. EST.  At this event, we connect members with their legislators to share why these priorities are so critical to our network and our communities. If you have questions regarding these priorities or how to get more engaged  in advocacy, contact our policy director, Kathleen Lara, at klara@prosperityindiana.org.

    We will keep you updated and engaged throughout session, but please be aware all hearings and session meetings are publicly available to stream live at www.in.gov/iga.


  • 20 Nov 2019 12:30 PM | Kathleen Lara (Administrator)

    On Tuesday, Nov. 19, the House passed a month-long extension of the current short-term funding bill by a vote of 231-192. This measure represents the second continuing resolution of the 2020 fiscal year. This will would allow lawmakers to continue funding the government for 30 days while negotiating differences between the House and Senate FY20 spending bills. Lawmakers seem close to agreement on final spending levels, but key differences remain, particularly around funding for the Administration’s proposed border wall.

    This measure has now moved to the Senate as members of Congress look to wrap up the week’s business before both the current federal funding deadline this Friday, November 21 and the Thanksgiving recess next week. This measure would continue FY 19 enacted funding levels for housing and community development programs.

    The bill, however, has hit a procedural snag as the underlying bill used as a means to pass the short term funding bill is a funding bill Senate Republicans would like to avoid so as to keep it open to negotiations later in the year. In short, the House is likely to see the bill returned so that they use a different underlying bill to send back to the Senate. That becomes procedurally quite close to the Friday deadline for both the House to vote again and the Senate to vote for final passage.

    What happened in the Senate spending bill?

    We have outlined on this blog the House and Senate bill proposals for FY 20 spending. In our August newsletter, we urged members to call and urge our Senators to fund community development programs as the highest possible level under the agreed upon spending caps and to restore funding that was cut from HUD’s housing counseling budget. The final bill passed on October 31, by a vote of 84-9, without a change to the counseling program funding level, so we urge continued advocacy and calls to your House Representative and both Senators as negotiations continue.

    Some amendment language was passed, however, that Prosperity Indiana believes strengthened the underlying bill, including a provision to allow the USDA to extend rental assistance agreements for projects financed by existing Section 514 or 515 loans for up to 20 years to help assisted residents remain stably housed for longer periods

    Stay tuned to our social media and this blog for timely budget updates!

  • 13 Nov 2019 7:01 PM | Kathleen Lara (Administrator)

    On November 11, the Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana (FHCCI) announced a record settlement in a lawsuit against a local business owner accused of targeting Latino communities with predatory land contracts for homeownership of properties that were frequently not in a habitable condition and inflated in their sales price. While the owner of the company in question, Casas Baratas Aqui (translated: “Cheap Homes Here”)

    The FHCCI press release noted that several individual plaintiffs brought action in federal court in April 2018 alleging that the company violated the Fair Housing Act, Equal Credit Opportunity Act, Civil Rights Acts of 1866 and 1871, Truth in Lending Act, as well as several Indiana state statutes. Specifically, the company was accused of targeting Hispanic/Latino homeseekers, in particular, with a housing product that offered uninhabitable homes at high interest rates and home prices far above their property values. (Photo Source: IndyStar Article linked below, Sarah Stier, IndyStar)

    As IndyStar reported, Amy Nelson, the Executive Director of FHCCI, stated that, “This is a ground-breaking resolution that will have a national impact on rent-to-own and land contracts by providing an example of requirements to ensure fairness in these transactions.”

    The IndyStar article outlines one specific case where a plaintiff “entered a one-year lease with a monthly rental rate of $1,000. She was given the option to buy the home for $77,900.” The owner of the company, however, bought the house for only $32,000. The borrower also had a down payment of $8,500 and also required the borrower to “pay $69,400 with a 10 percent interest rate, in monthly installments of $746 for a 30-year term.” In addition to the high costs of this house, the plaintiff found that “the plumbing was completely clogged, the sink didn't function, the floor was rotted and the ceiling had started to collapse,” according to the case complaint. Further, the plaintiff was intimidated after, according to the complaint, “being told to be careful [about complaining] since they are 'illegal.'

    These plaintiffs will see financial relief as a result of this settlement thanks to the FHCCI’s work. The owners said they would change their business practices based on this and the September 2019 ruling from the Indiana Supreme Court. (Photo Source: Indystar Article Screenshot, article authored by Crystal Hall)

    Earlier this fall, the Court ruled in a case that similarly addressed predatory homeownership contracts. Prosperity Indiana joined the state, the city of Indianapolis, Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic, the Notre Dame Clinical Law Center and National Consumer Law Center, and the Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana as amicus filers in the Rainbow Realty case where, similar to this instance, borrowers were required to pay for all repairs and maintenance as a homeowner would, but if they fell behind in their monthly payments, they would be treated like renters, facing eviction, not foreclosure, and losing all of their equity.

    The Supreme Court’s ruling found that the contract in this case was a rental agreement and not a purchase agreement, as they had been told. Justice Geoffrey Slaughter wrote for the panel in stating, “attempted waiver of their obligations as landlords is void."

  • 12 Nov 2019 3:30 PM | Kathleen Lara (Administrator)

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

    November 12, 2019

    Hoosier Veteran, Faith, Community Groups Applaud Federal Bill to Protect Consumers from Predatory Lending

    INDIANAPOLIS – A coalition of more than 100 Indiana-based veterans groups, faith-based organizations, non-profits, and civil rights organizations applauds the introduction of the Veterans & Consumer Fair Lending Act, a bipartisan bill sponsored by Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Jack Reed (D-RI) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), as well as Representatives Jesus “Chuy” Garcia (D-IL) and Glen Grothman (R-WI). The coalition urges members of Indiana’s federal delegation to add their names as coauthors of the legislation.

    If passed, the lending regulations outlined in the Military Lending Act (MLA), including a 36 percent interest rate cap on small-dollar, short-term loans (commonly known as payday loans), would be applied to all citizens. Right now, the protections only cover active-duty military members, leaving veterans and civilians vulnerable to lenders charging triple-digit interest rates. In Indiana, payday lenders charging up to 391 percent APR have drained over $300 million in finance charges over the past five years. Nearly 90 percent of Hoosiers want to see these loans capped at 36 percent APR.

    “Extending the Military Lending Act is a clear message that our military (active and reserve), veterans, and their families are valued for their service to our nation,” said Brigadier General James Bauerle, Vice Chairman of the Military / Veterans Coalition of Indiana. “We cannot take for granted this group of great Americans as they have sacrificed so much and done so much so we can enjoy the freedom granted in our Constitution.”

    Advocates from across Indiana have been recommending that state lawmakers enact a 36 percent rate cap for several years. To date, 16 states and Washington, D.C., have adopted similar legislation (a rate cap at 36 percent or lower) with promising results. At the state level, Senator Greg Walker (R-Columbus) Senator John Ruckelshaus (R-Indianapolis), Senator James Tomes (R-Evansville), Senator Vaneta Becker (R-Evansville), Senator Dennis Kruse (R-Auburn), Senator Jean Breaux (D-Indianapolis), Senator Mark Stoops (D-Bloomington), Senator J.D. Ford (D- Indianapolis), Senator Mike Bohacek (R-Michigan City), and Senator Lonnie Randolph (D-East Chicago) coauthored SB 104 in the 2019 session, which would have capped interest rates on small-dollar, short-term loans statewide at 36 percent APR. The bill failed to pass the Senate 22-27.

    “Human service agencies across this state regularly see the damage and distress payday lending causes,” said Emily Bryant, President of the Indiana Coalition for Human Services. “Our members enthusiastically applaud the introduction of federal legislation to extend the Military Lending Act protections to all consumers.”

    ###

    For more information, please see:

    Financial Drain: http://www.incap.org/documents/Financial_Drain_Report2019.pdf

    Bellwether Polling: http://incap.org/documents/INPaydayLendingMemo1.22.18.pdf

    United States Department of Defense report: https://archive.defense.gov/pubs/pdfs/Report_to_Congress_final.pdf


  • 16 Oct 2019 4:11 PM | Kathleen Lara (Administrator)


    WE NEED YOUR VOICE!

    One of the most powerful tools in fighting housing discrimination is the Disparate Impact Rule, a bedrock legal principle under the Fair Housing Act. While disparate impact has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court as a legitimate means to target discrimination that often flies under the radar, the Administration has proposed revising this rule in a way that would  preclude most from bringing future legal challenges.

    Although the federal Fair Housing Act was passed in 1968, housing discrimination enforcement remains woefully incomplete. Nationally, it is estimated that 4 million incidents of housing discrimination occur each year. Without a strong Disparate Impact Rule, the ability to challenge these harmful practices becomes far more difficult.  To now add additional and cumbersome barriers for individuals and organizations fighting discrimination is counterintuitive and counterproductive. You have until Friday, October 18 to urge the Administration to reverse this proposal.

    Click here to access a pre-drafted letter you can easily add to/edit and submit directly

    Below you can review the full letter we submitted, but even comments that are just a few sentences expressing your concern about this proposed revision of the HUD Disparate Impact rule can have enormous impact. You can learn more about the proposed rule here:  https://www.defendcivilrights.org

    Docket No. HUD-2019-0067

    RIN 2529-AA98

    October 16, 2019

    Office of General Counsel, Rules Docket Clerk

    Department of Housing and Urban Development

    451 7th Street SW, Room 10276 

    Washington, DC 20410

    To Whom It May Concern:

    Prosperity Indiana appreciates the opportunity comment on the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Notice of Reconsideration of the Implementation of the Fair Housing Act's Disparate Impact Standard, Docket No. FR-6111-P-02. The Disparate Impact Rule has served as a critical tool in helping enforce anti-discrimination laws.

    Our organization represents a network of more than 170 community development organizations dedicated to helping low-income Hoosiers achieve and maintain housing and economic security in each of our state’s 92 counties. Our members strive to ensure all Hoosiers can access safe, stable and affordable housing, and our work is focused on building a society where all persons can live and work in an environment that provides equitable access to economic and social opportunity. Central to that effort is ensuring we confront and eradicate instances of economic and residential discrimination and segregation.

    For more than 50 years, the Fair Housing Act has made substantial strides in reducing the discriminatory practices related to renting or buying a home, getting a mortgage, or seeking housing assistance despite our government’s previous history of condoning or perpetuating those practices. As time moves on, the portion of that act that prohibits facially neutral policies that limit housing opportunities based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, as well as the presence of families with children or people with disabilities, becomes ever more critical. Much of the discrimination that citizens face today manifests in these ways. That is why the Disparate Impact Rule is so critical. Since 2013, the uniform Disparate Impact Rule has been effective in establishing a rigorous, but fair process by requiring plaintiffs to establish a strong case, without undermining their reasonable ability to confront these practices. This Rule has empowered victims to remedy discriminatory practices that unfortunately persist far too frequently throughout our state of Indiana and across the country.

    In the past five years alone, the Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana documented 947 fair housing allegations, opened 209 targeted fair housing investigations and assisted numerous persons with disabilities in obtaining reasonable accommodations after initial denials from housing providers, working alongside landlords and tenants to achieve equitable outcomes for all. In addition, the Center has initiated 12 federal court actions and 17 HUD/ Fair Housing Assistance Program complaints to intervene where there have been violations of fair housing law. In two of those lawsuits, more than 3,000 victims of housing discrimination are identified. The Disparate Impact Rule is essential to rooting out these discriminatory practices to fulfill the promise of the Fair Housing Act.

    Contrary to HUD’s claims that the proposed revisions to this Rule are merely an effort to update the standard “to better reflect the Supreme Court's 2015 ruling in Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project, Inc., and to provide clarification regarding the application of the standard to State laws governing the business of insurance,” we find this to be a brazen attempt to undermine the core tenants of the Act and disadvantage parties who have been injured by discriminatory practices to prevent them from successfully bringing forward a claim of disparate impact.

    In fact, the majority opinion in the Inclusive Communities case quotes HUD’s rule extensively without any suggestion that its opinion was in tension with that rule. Instead, Justice Kennedy wrote, “In addition, it is of crucial importance that the existence of disparate-impact liability is supported by amendments to the FHA that Congress enacted in 1988. By that time, all nine Courts of Appeals to have addressed the question had concluded the Fair Housing Act encompassed disparate-impact claims.” The Court implicitly endorsed the 2013 Rule by not questioning or challenging it, and no lower court actions since the Inclusive Communities Project suggest that the three-step burden shifting standard is inadequate.

    Despite that affirmation, HUD is now proposing dramatic changes to this Rule that blatantly favor defendants to the extent that it nearly invalidates the ability of individuals to effectively bring a case forward. Under the current Rule, §100.500, the three-step standard for presenting a prima facie case is simple. First, the plaintiff has the burden of proving a policy or practice caused or predictably will cause discrimination. Second, if that burden is established, the defendant must prove that the challenged practice is necessary to achieve their legitimate, substantial, nondiscriminatory interests. Third, if the defendant is able to prove that, the plaintiff must then prove that those interests could be served by a different policy or practice that has a less discriminatory impact. That standard is already rigorous in requiring plaintiffs to prove a strong case is present before the burden ever shifts to the defendant.

    HUD now proposes to place the burden of proving “the challenged practice is necessary to achieve one or more substantial, legitimate, nondiscriminatory interests” on the defendant as well. The revisions under consideration would impose a new five-point test before the defendant has any burden. Plaintiffs would have to do the following:

    1) prove that a policy is “arbitrary, artificial, and unnecessary” to achieve a valid interest; 2) demonstrate a “robust causal link” between the practice and the disparate impact;
    3) show that the policy negatively affects “members of a protected class” based on race, color, religion, sex, family status, or national origin;
    4) indicate that the impact is “significant”; and
    5) prove that the “complaining party’s alleged injury” is directly caused by the practice in question

    Under the proposed revisions, the plaintiff must overcome nearly insurmountable barriers to establish their case and provide proof before discovery could even take place. That is  essential because the discovery process often provides critical evidence illuminating the specifics of how certain policies and practices came to be implemented and their intent. These excessive barriers will require plaintiffs to anticipate what justifications a defendant may use and try to provide responses before the defendant is ever required to respond.

    Further, a closer read of the revised language to §100.500 (b)(1) appears to suggest that if a practice is exceedingly profitable, it may be exempt from disparate impact claims – even if a plaintiff can demonstrate discriminatory outcomes. The current Rule in that section requires the defendant to show that the challenged practice is “necessary to achieve one or more substantial, legitimate, nondiscriminatory interests.” The revision would shift the burden to the plaintiff and requires that the plaintiff show the practice is “unnecessary to achieve a valid interest or legitimate objective such as a practical business, profit, policy consideration, or requirement of law.” This addition of “profit” invites arguments from defendants claiming exorbitant profit may be a legitimate basis to continue the practice.  

    Finally, the proposed revisions provide new, broad defenses that landlords, lenders and other defendants can employ to subvert responsibility. Those include a defense enabling them to agree that a model used by the defendant in question may be discriminatory, but could be the fault of statistics and algorithms informing their practices related to credit scoring, pricing, marketing and underwriting. While these can still be harmful and discriminatory, the companies using these practices may not be held responsible for their consequences.

    Under this proposal, we believe there will no protection against a landlord evicting victims of domestic violence, based on common leases that hold all tenants, even victims, responsible for crimes in their homes. We believe landlords could legally turn away applicants who do not hold full-time jobs, affecting people with disabilities or seniors. We believe an apartment building could also restrict occupancy to one person per bedroom. Families with children would be barred from renting or would be forced to rent more expensive multi-bedroom apartments. We also believe it could allow an insurance company to refuse to insure homes under a certain dollar value. In many communities, this would exclude homes in neighborhoods of color from quality insurance and would prevent homeowners in those areas from fully protecting their homes.

    After decades of slow, steady progress, this proposal would eliminate the incentive for property owners, lenders and insurers to adopt stronger policies that better serve us all. It would also eliminate the right of victims of discrimination from reasonably accessing justice. On behalf of our network striving to ensure more residents of Indiana can prosper and live in safe, secure housing, we urge HUD to withdraw this proposed reconsideration of the Disparate Impact Rule and appreciate the opportunity to comment.

    Sincerely,

    Jessica Love

    Executive Director


  • 09 Oct 2019 3:42 PM | Kathleen Lara (Administrator)

    Throughout the state this summer and fall, Prosperity Indiana went on the road hosting six regional Policy & Pizza meetings designed to share our 2020 Policy Priorities, but also to help build or deepen direct relationships between our members and legislators. We are thrilled by the results and thankful that at each meeting, legislators were able to hear local context for our priorities and witness the local partnerships among our network as PI members work to address considerable community development challenges.

    We were also excited to lift up key successes among our network. We look forward to continuing to find ways to continue this engagement! One key way to touch base with legislators again is at our Statehouse Day on Tuesday, January 14, 2020 from 1-4 pm EST. Registration is free for members and we set up all legislator meetings and provide talking points. Let's keep building on all of this advocacy momentum as we head into 2020!

  • 01 Oct 2019 3:32 PM | Kathleen Lara (Administrator)

    On September 27, the President signed a continuing resolution (CR), or stopgap funding measure, to keep the government funded through November 21 in an effort to give the House and the Senate to debate differences in their appropriations bills. The full Senate has not approved their appropriations bills as the House has, but the Appropriations Committee did approve the bills, meaning they are ready to be considered on the floor.

    Below is an updated budget chart for many of PI's member interests for appropriations bills for housing and community development programs within the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Agriculture. Members of the Campaign for Housing and Community Development Funding (CHCDF) have sent a letter to Appropriations leaders in both chambers urging them to include the highest possible allocations to support affordable housing under the budget deal.

    Overall, the Senate proposal for the HUD budget provides than $11.9 billion above the president’s FY20 request and $2.3 billion above FY19 enacted levels, but still $1.5 billion less in funding than the House version. Key line items of concern to our members include the net loss to already underfunded Housing Counseling budget as well as funding for HOPWA and the Public Housing Operating Fund.

    NOW IS THE TIME TO REACH OUT TO OUR SENATORS AND RESPECTFULLY URGE THEM TO PASS THE HIGHEST POSSIBLE FUNDING LEVELS UNDER THE BUDGET AGREEMENT FOR HOUSING PROGRAMS TO ADDRESS OUR STATE’S AFFORDABILITY CRISIS.

    Senator Young: (202) 224-5623
    Senator Braun: (202) 224-4814

    In terms of policy matters addressed in the Senate THUD bill, the legislation joins the House bill in prohibiting the Administration’s proposal for rent increases and rigid work requirements, but does not include the House-passed language to halt the Administration’s proposal to evict mixed-status families from assisted housing and to roll back LGBTQ protections.


  • 18 Sep 2019 3:23 PM | Kathleen Lara (Administrator)

    On Tuesday, September 17, the Senate Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD) Appropriations Subcommittee today approved its FY20 appropriations bill, laying out critical housing and community development program funding levels for our communities and member network. Last week, the full Senate Appropriations Committee determined how much each subcommittee would receive and the Senate allocated $74.3 billion for the THUD Subcommittee, which is roughly $1.5 billion less than the House proposal, but $3.2 billion above FY19 enacted levels.

    The measure will go on to be considered Thursday (September 19) by the full Senate Appropriations Committee. Click here for an updated budget chart.

    Highlights include:

    • $56 billion for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, $2.3 billion above the FY2019 enacted level
    • $23.8 billion for tenant-based Section 8 vouchers
    • $7.5 billion for public housing
    • $12.6 billion for project-based Section 8 rental assistance (enough to renew all contracts)
    • $696 million for Section 202 Housing for the Elderly
    • $184 million for Housing for Persons with Disabilities
    • $3.3 billion for CDBG
    • $1.3 billion for HOME funds
    • $330 million for HOPWA
    • $2.8 for the Homeless Assistance Grants
    • $290 million for lead hazard reduction
  • 10 Sep 2019 4:53 PM | Kathleen Lara (Administrator)

    Today, the Senate Banking Committee heard testimony from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, HUD Secretary Ben Carson, and Federal Housing Finance Agency Director Mark Calabria regarding the Administration’s proposal to overhaul the nation’s housing finance system. Secretary Mnuchin outlined the Administration’s vision for the future of two giant companies, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, that back half of the nation’s mortgages by buying mortgages from lenders, then selling packaged securities to investors. The two companies also have an affordable housing mandate to support access to affordable, 30-year mortgages. They have also been under conservatorship, or government control, for 11 years.

    The plan would make these companies private again, but require a fee for the government protection they receive and eliminate a requirement that the companies send their profits to the Treasury Department. Secretary Mnuchin noted that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac currently have a combined $6 billion in capital but said they should have about $100 billion and that creates an intense reliance on Treasury support. The companies did receive nearly $200 billion in bailouts, but as the market has been working towards recovery, they have since contributed $300 billion in dividends to the Treasury Department. This dynamic complicates the reform roadmap for moving forward.

    There is bipartisan support for the need to come up with a plan to end conservatorship and move the mortgage giants move forward, but significant concerns over the proposal were raised regarding the implications for moderate-income households seeking a stable, affordable home loan. The proposal calls for eliminating the affordable housing goals in favor of having the Federal Housing Agency and Congress create “more efficient mechanisms” for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to achieve those goals with the goal for delivering tailored support to lower-income, rural and first-time home buyers. Changes to current mandates could have sweeping effects on credit access for first-time homebuyers who lack a 20 percent downpayment.

    The plan would also allow for private competitors in the market for the first time who would not have the same obligations or guarantees. This could affect efforts to address racial homeownership gaps. During the hearing, numerous Senators pointed out that the black homeownership is just over 40 percent, which is actually lower than when the Fair Housing Act was passed in 1968 while white homeownership has consistently increased over that time to 73 percent.

    Jesse Van Tol, chief executive of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, noted that the plan would “open the market up to competitors for the first time and introduce private guarantors that won’t have the same obligations as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.”

    Numerous senators also focused on the proposal’s proposal that would release Fannie and Freddie from their “duty-to-serve” requirements that increase lending in rural communities. We will continue to update members on any further negotiations or discussions around this and other housing finance proposals.


  • 09 Aug 2019 1:49 PM | Kathleen Lara (Administrator)

    Indiana is widely perceived as one of the most affordable places to live in the United States, but that is not the case for far too many Hoosiers. Forty-six percent of renters are cost-burdened and three large Indiana cities are in the top 20 nationwide for evictions, including South Bend, Indianapolis and Fort Wayne. 

    To dive into the issues surrounding our affordable housing crisis, Prosperity Indiana's Executive Director, Jessica Love, joined U.S. Senator Todd Young and Matthew Desmond, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City," and numerous members for a community conversation on current challenges and policy solutions to pursue.  These events took place at member-hosted sites in South Bend and Fort Wayne. 

    The Journal Gazette provided the following coverage of the event in Fort Wayne: 

    Targeting city's rate of eviction
    Young leads panel seeking affordable housing solution

    BRIAN FRANCISCO | The Journal Gazette

    A roundtable discussion Wednesday generated plenty of ideas for shrinking Fort Wayne's home eviction rate, the 13th highest among the nation's large cities.

    Among the suggestions: Increase funding for affordable housing from the public and private sectors. Improve legal protections for tenants. Provide better support services for low-income renters. Use lower-cost manufactured housing. Persuade landlords and tenants to take advantage of available options for education and training on their rights and responsibilities.

    Perhaps the most frequent recommendation: Expand collaboration among stakeholders.

    “Collaboration is a big key to this on a lot of different levels,” said Justin Barker of Pathfinder Services, which assists people with disabilities.

    “One organization can't do it all,” he said. “We need each one here at the table and each one in this room to be able to push that needle forward for these low-income households in Indiana.”

    Barker was among 10 people invited to participate in the roundtable discussion at Tiffany Heights Apartments on Elmcrest Drive by U.S. Sen. Todd Young. About 40 more people crowded into the Tiffany Heights office, and Young encouraged them to weigh in, too.

    Young, R-Ind., said the nation suffers from a “housing affordability crisis.” He has introduced bills addressing it, including legislation signed into law that aims to help public housing voucher recipients relocate to lower-poverty areas.

    “Getting people into safe and stable housing saves on health care and education expenses and public safety and corrections,” Young said.

    He was accompanied by Matthew Desmond, a Princeton University sociologist and author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City.”

    “We are at a point in this country where we are evicting people not by the thousands or hundreds of thousands, but by the millions every year,” Desmond said. “There are more eviction filings in America every single year than there were foreclosure filings at the height of the (financial) crisis” in 2007-08.

    The odds of being evicted triples for tenants with children, he said, noting that a New York evictions court offered child-care services until recently.

    “So if we want more family stability and more community stability, we need fewer evictions,” Desmond said.

    He said a third of evictions involve tenants who owe less than a month's rent.

    “People are getting evicted for peanuts. This doesn't make any sense,” Desmond said. 

    He and others lamented state laws that allow eviction records to follow people as they seek housing elsewhere. An audience member mentioned that Indiana allows for eviction records to be stuck to adult children living with evicted parents.

    Desmond said renters have few resources at their disposal for researching and comparing landlords.

    “We don't even have the capacity in most cities to identify which landlords are awesome and which landlords are really breaking the rules, and that's strange to be in the dark in the age of the internet,” he said.

    Roundtable participants agreed that affordable housing is in great demand in Fort Wayne.

    “Our phone rings off the hook. People walk in the door all the time. ... Our tax-credit properties are full,” said Nikki Gillenwater of New Generation Management, which manages affordable-living communities.

    Roundtable participants included representatives of the Fort Wayne Housing Authority, Brightpoint, Vincent Village, Keller Development, Prosperity Indiana, the Affordable Housing Association of Indiana and the Indiana Manufactured Housing Association.

    Young and Desmond conducted a similar discussion Wednesday morning in South Bend, which has the country's 18th highest eviction rate among large cities, according to Princeton's Eviction Lab, a nationwide database of evictions. Indianapolis has the 14th highest rate.

    Eviction Lab calculates its eviction rate as the number of evictions for every 100 renters homes in an area. Fort Wayne's rate was 7.39% in 2016, the last year measured.

    Three communities in northeast Indiana – Waterloo, Grabill and Cromwell – had among the 60 highest eviction rates for small communities and rural areas nationwide in 2016. All three were in double digits, topped by Waterloo's 24.3%, ranked ninth nationally.


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Prosperity Indiana
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Indianapolis, IN 46204 
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