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2024 Indiana General Assembly session short on focus on Community Economic Development; sets up ‘monumental’ budget session in 2025

26 Mar 2024 10:20 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

A shorter-than-usual 2024 session of the Indiana General Assembly yielded too little progress to grade the legislature a success in delivering for the community economic development sector and the most vulnerable Hoosiers they serve. However, clues from this session will help Prosperity Indiana members and partners prepare for what legislative leaders are already calling a “monumental” budget session in 2025. 

As the year began, Prosperity Indiana wrote: “Even during a 'short session' when the Indiana General Assembly typically doesn't consider legislation that would affect the state budget, lawmakers have chances in 2024 to improve long-term housing stability and attainability and consumer protections that are critical to Hoosiers' well-being and economic opportunities”. But despite a member-driven policy agenda that translated into bipartisan priority legislation carefully selected to be able to pass during a shortened non-budget session, the General Assembly did not choose to focus on these tangible solutions to strengthen Indiana’s communities and improve Hoosiers’ lives.  

Here are several notable legislative outcomes from across Prosperity Indiana’s key issues of affordable housing, community development resources, and asset-building and consumer protections, and what they mean for the future. 

Affordable Housing: Despite legislation with a Republican lead author who had solicited input from housing advocates, industry representatives, and community stakeholders, and despite a broad set of bipartisan coauthors, for the third year in a row critical tenant protection legislation failed to gain a full committee hearing in the Indiana General Assembly. SB 277, with author Sen. Greg Walker (R-Columbus) and co-author Sen. Fady Qaddoura (D-Indianapolis) would have remedied the fact that Indiana is one of only six states without effective public and private enforcement of housing health and safety standards.  

The legislature’s failure to act to address the root causes of a state housing crisis that has now put Indiana near the bottom of the Midwest in rates of affordable and available housing and severe housing cost burden, and worse than the national average. This lack of progress has resulted in severe health damage and danger for thousands of Hoosier families, tragically including for six children who died in a South Bend fire after their house was reportedly allowed to be re-rented after failing electrical inspection. In light of this unaddressed crisis, following the session’s end Prosperity Indiana and the Hoosier Housing Needs Coalition issued a call and sign-on effort to urge Governor Holcomb to appoint an inter-agency, inter-branch ‘Commission on Housing Safety, Stability, and Affordability’ to advance solutions. The Governor has signaled “Message Received” although the Commission has yet to be created as of this writing. 

Although the General Assembly took no meaningful steps to lower costs and increase housing standards for low- and middle-income Hoosiers this session, they did pass two bills that will protect homeowners by curbing deceptive real estate practices. HEA 1068 Unlicensed real estate solicitors authored by Rep. Ed Clere (R-New Albany) will increase disclosure requirements for unlicensed real estate solicitations and allow a short window to cancel transactions resulting from such solicitations. HEA 1222 Residential real estate service agreements, authored by Rep. Craig Haggard (R-Mooresville) and will protect homeowners from unfair real estate fee agreements in property records. Prosperity Indiana testified in support of both bills. 

Another housing bill that did not pass should serve as a warning to Hoosiers working to end homelessness in our communities. HB 1413State and local policies on homelessness bore telltale similarities to cookie-cutter legislation pushed by national interest groups that would have criminalized homelessness and forced Indiana to abandon proven Housing First homelessness prevention services and funds. Prosperity Indiana applauded author Rep. Michelle Davis (R-Greenwood) for taking the time to talk with coalition members and Indiana’s community service providers who successfully use the evidence-based Housing First approach every day, and for choosing to withdraw the bill from consideration. However, with efforts to criminalize homelessness continuing at the federal, state, and local levels, Prosperity Indiana members must continue to educate lawmakers about why #HousingFirstWorks. 

Community Development Resources: Prosperity Indiana members worked with legislative champions to create a trio of bills to provide communities with resources to create and maintain affordable housing and services. However, again due to shortened committee calendars, the bills were not granted a hearing and allowed an up-or-down vote. These included HB 1212 Land banks authored by Rep. Elizabeth Rowray (R-Muncie) and Rep. Sue Errington (D-Muncie), which would have provided community land banks with the ability to acquire vacant, abandoned, and deteriorating properties that remain unsold at county tax sales, and with administrative tools and options for financial resources to strengthen land bank operations. Likewise, HB 1029 authored by Rep. Maureen Bauer (D-South Bend) and SB 207 both titled ‘Assessment of community land trust property’ would have addressed the issue that housing created by Community Land Trusts meant to be kept at affordable prices is assessed for property taxes at market rates. 

While these bills did not advance, Prosperity Indiana was proud to support Sen. Vaneta Becker (R-Evansville) and IHCDA in the agency-sponsored bill SEA 260 Neighborhood and individual development incentives. The bill modernizes the administration of and procedure for claiming the neighborhood assistance tax credit and the individual development account tax credit. Most relevant for Prosperity Indiana members, the bill shortens the time it takes for low-income participants in the successful Individual Development Account program to access matched savings once they reach their savings and financial counseling goals. 

Asset-Building and Consumer Protections: On one hand, the Indiana General Assembly avoided protracted efforts to expand predatory subprime and payday lending that in previous sessions has taken much time and effort by Prosperity Indiana members and partners in Hoosiers for Responsible Lending to defeat. On the other hand, the legislature did not pass two measures that would have meaningfully strengthened consumer protections for Hoosiers. HB 1171 Small loan finance charges authored by Rep. Carey Hamilton (D-Indianapolis) would have capped payday loans at 36% APR, the same limit the federal government provides for active duty servicemembers. SB 200 Nonprofit loan center loans for state employees was the brainchild of Sen. Spencer Deery (R-West Lafayette) stemming from conversations with Prosperity Indiana members and staff and would have extended the benefits of Community Loan Center payday loan alternatives to state employees. While SB 200 passed the Senate by a wide bipartisan 41-8 margin, the bill was not granted a hearing by the House Financial Institutions Committee. 

Despite not having time for productive bills like HB 1171 and SB 202, the legislature did find time to pass two bills that further tip accountability away from financial institutions and will weaken consumer protections. These include HB 1284 authored by Rep. Kyle Pierce (R-Anderson), which increases institutions’ capacity to change account terms with little notice and SB 188 Actions on deposit accounts, authored by Sen. Scott Baldwin (R-Noblesville), which limits consumer recourse against false and mistaken fees or other bank errors.  

While no bills proposing major changes to the state’s tax system advanced this session, the ongoing State and Local Tax Review Task Force has signaled it is mulling such changes for 2025, including eliminating Indiana’s individual income tax. Prosperity Indiana presented to the Task Force in January and called on the General Assembly to “do no harm” Hoosiers and their communities. The presentation included new data co-released in part by Prosperity Indiana and the Indiana Assets & Opportunity Network showing that Indiana already taxes low-income residents at the 2nd-highest rate in the Midwest and 5th-highest in the nation. Eliminating revenue sources without replacement threatens to further imbalance tax burdens on the most vulnerable Hoosiers and threatens resources and services that community economic development organizations provide. 

Preparing for a “monumental” session in 2025: The potential for tax system changes is just part of what legislative leaders are already calling a “monumental” budget session in 2025, with major implications for affordable housing, community development resources, and asset-building and consumer protection policies. And of course, between them is a set of state and federal elections that will determine which policymakers will be in office and making these decisions. 

So, in the remainder of this year, how can community economic development stakeholders make their voices heard and be prepared for a momentous 2025? First, every stakeholder should be sure their Prosperity Indiana membership is current so that our network has a united voice to remove barriers, bridge gaps, and create positive change for Hoosier communities. Second, be sure to join and share events and information from our coalitions the Hoosier Housing Needs Coalition, the Indiana Assets & Opportunity Network, and Hoosiers for Responsible Lending to amplify advocacy on these critical issues. And third, be sure every member of your network is registered to vote following the latest requirements, because stronger Indiana communities are built with ballots every bit as much as they are with bricks and drywall. 

Prosperity Indiana
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Indianapolis, IN 46204 
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