While Indiana has reopened the Hardest Hit Fund for homeowners in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, assistance for Hoosier renters who are also hit hard during the crisis remains unclear under current state guidance. Prosperity Indiana understands that there are lots of moving parts, and that the state doesn’t yet have the direction it needs from HUD regarding implementation of CARES Act funding Indiana will receive. But we also haven’t yet heard a commitment from the Governor that Indiana intends to do whatever it can to support renters and ensure no Hoosier is evicted or becomes homeless due to the COVID-19 crisis.
For those reasons, Prosperity Indiana and several key housing stability advocates have formed the Hoosier Housing Needs Coalition with a steering committee that is first focusing its efforts on making recommendations regarding critical short-term emergency rental assistance and homelessness prevention. We invite members to join the coalition’s efforts by reaching out to firstname.lastname@example.org to receive updates and find out additional ways to get involved.
Here is the press release sent by the Hoosier Housing Needs Coalition on May 1 urging that Indiana create an #INthistogether housing stability response to the COVID-19 crisis:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
May 1, 2020
Contact: Andrew Bradley, Policy Director, Prosperity Indiana
email@example.com, 317-222-1221 x403
New Hoosier Housing Needs Coalition urges actions to ensure housing stability response to COVID-19
INDIANAPOLIS – Rent is due May 1 across Indiana, but hundreds of thousands of Hoosiers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic won’t be able to pay, leaving them open to eviction and threatening their long-term housing stability. The newly-formed Hoosier Housing Needs Coalition is issuing policy recommendations to avoid a tsunami of evictions and homelessness in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Formed to advocate for housing stability policy solutions for an equitable response and recovery to the pandemic, the Coalition is urging immediate action ahead of the expiration of Indiana’s moratorium of evictions, which is set to expire on May 5.
Housing stability is a major, unaddressed need in the face of the pandemic. Over half a million Hoosiers have filed for unemployment since Governor Holcomb issued a pause on evictions on March 19th. While this pause was a critical and welcomed step, the state has not yet confronted the economic impact on Hoosier renters. And while the economic fallout is felt across the state and cuts across all demographics, Hoosiers of color and those working in occupations including manufacturing, retail, accommodation and food services, and health care and social assistance are more likely to have been furloughed, have hours reduced, or been medically impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.1,2 While more on-the ground data is needed, estimates from the National Low Income Housing Coalition find that Indiana will see a surge of 43,800 newly low-income renters as a result of COVID-19, and a total of 205,837 low-income Hoosier renter households who will need short-term emergency rental assistance in the wake of the pandemic.3
Mitigating steps: While a pause on evictions was necessary, it specifically did not relieve any portion of rent or other lease obligations. And while federal coronavirus response has included limited additional unemployment and one-time stimulus payments, this is not enough for the many thousands of Hoosier renter households whose incomes have declined and who will be subject to eviction if the pause is suddenly lifted.
For these reasons, the Hoosier Housing Needs Coalition calls on Indiana’s policymakers at the state, federal, and local levels to commit to an #INthistogether housing security response that ensures no Hoosier is evicted or becomes homeless due to the COVID-19 crisis. In order to prevent a sudden wave of evictions and the damaging health and social disruptions that follow for affected families, Indiana policymakers must plan ahead to create an emergency short-term rental assistance program and communicate steps to be taken. It will take each level of Indiana’s elected leaders, working hand-in-hand with community leaders and advocates, to achieve these steps:
First, Indiana must create certainty for Hoosier renters and landlords with updated deadlines and information:
While the eviction pause is still in place, Indiana must enact a housing stability plan to keep Hoosiers in their homes, prevent homelessness, and keep rental properties viable:
Keeping Indiana’s responsible housing providers and rental property investments viable is critical for long-term housing security for all Hoosiers. An Indiana COVID-19 housing security plan should incorporate features to support owners/operators, including:
Indiana’s Congressional delegation must also contribute fully to the #INthistogether housing security response by championing emergency rental assistance in future federal coronavirus response legislation.
“Local, state, and federal officials must take immediate action to keep the thousands of Hoosier children and their families who are on the brink of homelessness due to the COVID- 19 crisis from being evicted and to help families who are homeless get housing,” said Mike Chapuran, Executive Director of Family Promise of Greater Indianapolis.
“Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Indiana was already facing an extreme housing crisis. The lack of housing affordability, reports of housing discrimination, documented incidents of substandard housing, and the number of our cities in reports of highest evicting cities, had our Hoosier renters already struggling to secure safe homes for them and their families,” stated Amy Nelson, Executive Director of the Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana. “Now more than ever, we need our public officials identify this housing crisis as an emergency need and take the steps necessary to assist those most at risk of housing loss,” Nelson said.
“Once again, Indiana is topping terrible charts when it comes to evictions. According to Eviction Lab’s new COVID-19 Housing Policy Scorecard, Indiana is ranked near the bottom for its state level response, which has only included a moratorium on evictions for the duration of the state’s stay at home order thus far. But to be clear, our concerns are not about rankings. Our concerns are about the people impacted by the lack of policies and programs to support renters in this state,” said Jessica Love, Executive Director of Prosperity Indiana.
“And if we don’t do more to get ahead of the coming compounding crisis, Hoosiers – regardless of whether they’re going back to work – may soon have no home to return to at night. We can, and we must do better. So, we’re offering our assistance in thinking through a better response and making recommendations that are meant to reverse the trajectory for Hoosiers struggling the most right now,” Love said.
The founding steering committee for the Hoosier Housing Needs Coalition includes: 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. Prosperity Indiana staffs its coalition activities through grants from the National Low Income Housing Coalition and the Central Indiana Community Foundation.
Hoosiers and organizations who are interested in joining the Hoosier Housing Needs Coalition are encouraged to contact the coalition by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
1‘Demographic Distributions’ via https://www.coronavirus.in.gov/
2‘Weekly Unemployment Claims’ via http://www.stats.indiana.edu/claims/industry-visualization.asp
About 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 grants from the National Low Income Housing Coalition and the Central Indiana Community Foundation, HHNC works to convene partners from across Indiana to advocate for immediate 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.
Today a group of 17 Hoosier housing providers and housing security advocates joined Prosperity Indiana in sending a letter to Senator Todd Young, asking him to urge the Senate to include $100 billion in emergency rental assistance in the next coronavirus response stimulus bill. This request for the Senator’s leadership around this widespread national concern would address the estimated housing assistance need for more than 200,000 of Indiana’s lowest income renter households affected by the crisis.
The COVID-19 outbreak is expected to continue to cause great financial harm to businesses, workers, and communities in Indiana for the foreseeable future. Since the passage of the CARES Act, an additional 245,194 Hoosiers have filed for unemployment, at a rate more than 4000% higher than a year before. Estimates show that Indiana may lose over 400,000 total jobs due to the pandemic and reach an unemployment rate of 15 percent by July. Nearly a third of tenants did not pay rent in the first week of April, according to national estimates. These indicators are a clear sign that additional government action will be needed to ensure people remain in their homes rather than overwhelm the homeless system.
Estimates from the National Low Income Housing Coalition find that 205,837 extremely low-income and very low-income Hoosier renter households will need to be assisted with short-term rental assistance, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and economic after-effects. With an average cost of $6,494 per affected household, Indiana’s total annual cost of meeting unmet rental assistance needs will be $1.34 billion. While it will take Hoosiers #INthistogether to address the state’s response, Congress must come through to meet Indiana’s short term emergency rental assistance needs.
This is why an estimated $100 billion in emergency rental assistance is needed to avoid a financial cliff for renters – once eviction moratoria are lifted and back-rent is owed – and ensure the continued viability of our country’s essential affordable housing infrastructure. This direct rental assistance could ultimately prevent the current public health and economic crisis from morphing into a broad-scale financial market collapse like we saw in 2008.
Senator Young needs to hear from you regarding the reasons housing security is essential for Hoosiers throughout the pandemic. Click here to add your name to the letter calling on Senator Young to champion emergency rental assistance for Hoosiers.
Today, Prosperity Indiana submitted a letter on behalf of our network opposing the federal government’s proposed CRA rule change, and offering recommendations to instead strengthen our communities. In our letter, Prosperity Indiana made the following arguments opposing the CRA rule change:
Prosperity Indiana appreciates the opportunity to comment regarding the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) proposed regulations regarding the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA). Since 1996, banks have issued almost $2 trillion in loans and investments in low- and moderate-income communities, ensuring more individuals have the opportunity prosper and become homeowners, more businesses receive loans to grow and thrive, and more community development organizations can expand their work to revitalize neighborhoods. CRA is a critical tool to address equity in lending, access to credit, and investments in underserved communities.
Prosperity Indiana is a network of nearly 200 organizations and individuals committed to advancing community economic development statewide. The focus of our efforts is to ensure everyone can enjoy equal economic and social opportunities and live in thriving communities. In carrying out this work, we know how critical CRA is to ensuring that areas and/or projects that would not otherwise receive investment can secure critical capital from banks through loans and investments for affordable housing and economic development. These investments and credit services spark neighborhood revitalization and help more Hoosiers achieve and maintain economic success.
The timing of the closing of this comment period comes at an especially unfortunate time, as Indiana is under a public health emergency under the COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused Prosperity Indiana and most of our member organizations to dramatically alter our business operations. Like many of our community economic development members we serve, Prosperity Indiana has been called upon to shift much of our focus to immediate needs brought about by the pandemic. Many of those members and their partners across Indiana who are on the front lines of serving their communities do not have the time or resources needed to provide comments to these proposed CRA rule changes in the middle of the pandemic. We therefore ask that you give additional consideration to the comments of the organizations who represent those addressing those hardest hit during this pandemic.
With that in mind, we have strong concerns about how the proposed substantial revisions to the CRA’s regulations do not all appear to align with the intent of the Act. And while the CRA was established to address a legacy of redlining and divestment in low- and moderate-income (LMI) communities, the proposed changes raise concerns about how it will affect CRA’s charge to affirmatively meet the community needs for credit and services in LMI communities. Prosperity Indiana has identified core issues of critical concern in the NPR, which would result in diluting benefits for LMI communities and lead to exacerbating banking deserts for these communities. Prosperity Indiana has categorized the damaging impacts of the NPR into three key areas: what counts, how it counts, and where it counts.
What counts: By broadening what bank activities count as CRA-qualifying and diluting the focus of bank activities on LMI consumers and communities, the changes would weaken the ability of the CRA to specifically target services to those LMI communities. Deleting ‘economic development’ & ‘revitalization/stabilization’ of LMI communities from the definition of community development would take emphasis away from rehabilitating communities impacted by the legacy of redlining and ensuring stability of those who would fall prey to it if regulations are weakened. Introducing a ‘non-exhaustive’ list of eligible activities that includes a definition of ‘infrastructure’ for activities that are not clearly limited to LMI communities (such as roads and even sports stadiums) would further lessen the impact of targeted investment. In addition, no longer considering key bank services (such as deposit accounts) as qualified activities could lead to proliferation of check-cashing, payday lending and other subprime services and further drive banking deserts if the NPR is finalized. And by counting financial education for all income levels and widening the definition of community development services to include all volunteer activities, the NPR would reduce the CRA’s intended focus and impact on LMI communities.
Where it counts: Because the NPR limits consideration of bank branches more than under the current CRA service test, it would introduce uncertain effects for banks and the communities, non-profits, and individuals they serve in Indiana. And while assessment areas are updated in ways that aim to account for the proliferation of internet-based banks, there is much that is left vague or unknown about how the new regulations would assign deposits collected via the internet to branches. The NPR also notes that there is an allowance for credit for qualifying activities conducted outside of bank assessment areas. We continue to have concerns about how these changes will impact investment in small non-profits in Indiana.
How it counts: The proposal dramatically and irresponsibly expands what activities would be eligible for CRA credit. CRA serves Indiana’s communities by driving resources – we otherwise could not access – to places where they are needed. These resources address the financial and community development needs identified and prioritized by local communities. Switching to a “non-exhaustive list” of eligible activities – to include infrastructure, transportation, and even sports stadiums – removes Indiana’s community voices from determining our own needs.
Under this NPR, retail lending analysis would count for much less under the new proposed exams, which could exacerbate banking deserts. Potential impacts of a ‘one ratio test’ include a reduction in valuing retail branches in LMI communities and the potential to encourage an over-reliance on the largest and easiest deals at the expense of small-dollar business and home mortgage lending in LMI communities and a reduction in partnerships with small non-profits who make significant local impact in LMI communities. The regulations would also result in the lack of differentiation for asset classes, meaning state or regional banks are being compared to the largest banks on performance.
This single-ratio approach completely disregards whether the community development and financial needs of an area are being served by the bank or its investments. And as a result, the nearly 200 organizations that make up Prosperity Indiana’s membership, that have served our neighborhoods for years, and whose experience and expertise is seriously considered as part of the current CRA examination process, will be rendered voiceless. We would no longer be able to identify and prioritize our needs. Nor would our members and partners be taken as seriously by examiners when bank actors behave inappropriately in our community.
The single ratio is a deeply flawed concept. This was made clear during previous public comment periods. Yet it still remains part of this proposed rule. Please listen to our members from across Indiana during this period. The single ratio must be discarded.
Further, the rule proposes that a bank must meet investment benchmarks in only a “significant portion” of its assessment areas in order to receive a satisfactory or outstanding rating. The rule suggests that a “significant portion” be defined as something more than 50 percent.
That approach would legalize and encourage redlining! Communities like those that our members represent across the entire state of Indiana will be in the areas that are left behind. Permitting such behavior would bring us back to an era where financial institutions had the option to draw red lines around—and deny financial services to—poor neighborhoods and all neighborhoods of color. Except this time, it’s worse because we understand, yet choose to ignore, history.
The OCC and FDIC acting without the participation of the Federal Reserve risks producing three separate sets of CRA regulations. That makes everyone’s job more complicated, less transparent, and results in confusion. And in the end, Indiana’s communities will lose.
The problems of the single ratio, the overly broad definitions of CRA-eligible investments, the gutting of communities’ voices, the speedy rule-making process, the credibility gap created by the Federal Reserve’s absence, and the lack of good faith and outreach from the OCC that drove this reckless proposal make it beyond repair.
Because the CRA was originally enacted to end redlining, the primary goal of CRA modernization should continue to prioritize the problem CRA was intended to fix. Above all, it is critical for any CRA modernization to preserve the original intent of the CRA. But unfortunately, by damaging what counts in the CRA, where it counts, and how it counts, this proposal prioritizes policy compliance over impact and outcomes for the LMI families and communities that Prosperity Indiana and its members serve. On behalf of the low- and moderate-income people and places Prosperity Indiana serves, we ask that you please discard this proposal and start again. But if this rule does move forward, please keep our recommendations for Indiana’s communities at the forefront of the final rules.
Updating Indiana’s COVID-19 Housing Response
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 3, 2020
Contact: Jessica Love, Executive Director, email@example.com, 317-222-1221 x402
Andrew Bradley, Policy Director, firstname.lastname@example.org, 317-222-1221 x403
In less than a month since Governor Eric Holcomb issued Executive Order 20-02, declaring a Public Health Emergency for Coronavirus disease on March 6, 2020, the world around us has drastically changed. This includes how the state has responded to the pandemic’s effects on housing, landlord-tenant relations, and evictions and foreclosure. And just as the state has adopted an approach of #INthistogether to successfully weather the long-term impact of the crisis, Indiana must also use the policy tools at its disposal to craft a longer-term housing security response that keeps Hoosier families secure over the months to come.
Following the original declaration of Public Health Emergency, Governor Holcomb became one of the first state leaders to help keep residents secure at home by issuing a Temporary Prohibition on Eviction and Foreclosures through Executive Order 20-06 on March 19. Combined with the Governor’s veto of the eviction bill SEA 148, these executive actions helped relay a sense of calm and stability for the more than two million Hoosiers who rent – over 30 percent of the state’s population. However, the pause in evictions is currently limited both in time – tied to the Public Health Emergency and set to expire with that emergency order by April 6 unless extended – and in scope. The scope limitation results from the order saying no provision “shall be construed as relieving any individual of their obligations to pay rent” or other obligations under a tenancy or mortgage.
But just as Governor Holcomb is expected to extend the duration of the original public health emergency to reflect the ongoing timeline of the pandemic, so too should he adjust Indiana’s housing response and executive orders to reflect the evolving facts on the ground, aligned with policy tools at his disposal. Here are several ways Governor Holcomb can ensure that the COVID-19 pandemic doesn’t create a housing and eviction crisis before the economic effects of the emergency subside.
Now is the time for Indiana to take active steps to ensure that the tens of thousands of Hoosiers whose employment has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic do not see the economic fallout continue to snowball into the loss of stable housing. Clear, decisive steps to utilize available resources to keep Hoosiers in their homes and their heads above water could make the difference in getting Indiana past this crisis in the long run.
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.
March 25, 2020
Contact: Jessica Love, Executive Director
email@example.com, 317-222-1221 x402
Andrew Bradley, Policy Director
Housing Advocates Thank Governor Holcomb for Protecting Hoosier Renters with Veto of SEA 148
INDIANAPOLIS – Prosperity Indiana thanks Governor Holcomb for listening to our call to ensure housing stability remains a long-term priority in the Hoosier state with his veto of SEA 148. During this time, when the state’s economic and housing future faces uncertainty in the length and severity of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hoosier renters will not have to additionally worry about the “dangerous, unvetted language” in this legislation or the prospect of new forms of eviction and retaliation that the act could have brought.
Prosperity Indiana Executive Director Jessica Love said, “We applaud Governor Holcomb for his leadership in stopping this sweeping legislation, during what became an unusually difficult season for our state. We anticipate and look forward to working with impacted parties – those in support of and opposing SEA 148 – next session. By then, we should have a better grasp on what housing stability looks like for the foreseeable future for Hoosiers in the aftermath of COVID-19. After we survive this pandemic, I think we’ll all have a greater appreciation for safe and stable housing.”
Before its veto, SEA 148 would have expanded the remedy for emergency possession to include cases where the tenant is not at fault and limited tenants’ protections from retaliation by landlords, among other measures. And while the Governor’s executive order temporarily pauses evictions and foreclosures during the state of emergency, once lifted, SEA 148 would have exposed the more than two million Hoosiers who rent – over 30 percent of the state’s population – to weakened protections from bad-actor landlords. In addition, it would have nullified positive protections from cities and local governments.
By vetoing SEA 148, Governor Holcomb prevents this bill from undermining his administration’s efforts to date to address the social determinants of health, which specifically includes stable housing. The bill also would have undercut the results of existing state efforts to increase access to recovery housing and workforce housing, as well as IHCDA programs, including the Housing First model and Permanent Supportive Housing Institute and the Landlord Mitigation Reserve Program and Reserve Fund.
Now freed from the exacerbated threat of SEA 148, Indiana can commit state resources and work with statewide partners to help estimate the number of Hoosiers who will be have their housing impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, measure the shortfall of resources and services they face, and begin to work with community-based organizations and service providers on mitigation efforts.
Love said, “In addition to showing our appreciation to the Governor, we thank the hundreds of Prosperity Indiana members and other statewide organizations and individuals who called and wrote to voice their opposition to this legislation. While their voices were shut out of the democratic process for this bill, their advocacy and calls upon the Governor helped him grasp just how many Hoosiers were counting on his leadership on this issue at this critical moment. Prosperity Indiana and our members stand ready to assist the state in addressing the needs of the more than two million Hoosier renters, as this public health crisis continues to unfold.”
Prosperity Indiana Advocacy Update
What had already been a challenging session of the General Assembly for Prosperity Indiana members has now been compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic that is spreading across Indiana. In light of this new public health crisis, the failure of the Assembly to take up several positive bills and its passing of SEA 148 takes on new urgency for millions of Hoosier renters. Prosperity Indiana is currently leading a group of statewide organizations to ask 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.” And while Prosperity Indiana thanks Governor Holcomb for listening to our call to ensure Hoosiers' housing is protected during the current public health emergency by issuing an executive order to temporarily halt evictions and foreclosures, we call on him to veto SEA 148 to make sure housing stability remains a long-term priority in the Hoosier state. See our statement and letter to the Governor and please sign on here if you haven’t already. We are also monitoring additional state and federal policy fallout from the COVID-19 crisis and will keep members current as updates unfold.
The Indiana General Assembly adjourned Sine Die on Wednesday, March 11. This session proved to be challenging in terms of bills that we supported passing one house with bipartisan votes before dying in committee, and a bill that we strongly opposed passed. While we are disappointed with the overall outcome of session, we are grateful for all of the support that we received through our colleagues and members via testimony, legislator meetings, attendance at our Statehouse Day and the press conference, as well as countless e-mails, phone calls and sign-ons to our letter opposing SB340/SEA148. Below is a summary of where all of our priority bills landed:
Originally, language was inserted into SB340, which was previously uncontroversial and which we previously weren’t watching, in the House Judiciary Committee without any advance notice and with little testimony in opposition. The language was targeted to preempt municipalities from enacting ordinances regarding landlord-tenant relationships and making other changes to the state’s landlord-tenant laws. During conference committee, this language was stripped from SB340 due to lack of germaneness, and, with a few changes, was inserted into SB148. This bill, which passed the Senate 29-19 and the House 64-32 and is now headed to Governor Holcomb’s desk, contains the following concerning provisions:
After extensive negotiations in conference committee, Sen. Bassler concurred with House changes to his original bill, which will result in additional loans at an effective 72% APR.
Bills that We Were Tracking that Died Without an Initial Hearing
HB1012 Repeal of Housing Restriction on Local Government (Rep. Chris Chyung) –
Repeals a statute that prohibits a county, city, town, or township from requiring a landlord to participate in a federal Section 8 housing assistance program or similar housing program.
HB1103 Tenant’s Rights (Rep. Robin Shackleford) –
Contains various provisions relating to termination of rental agreements and tenant rights when landlords fail to remedy property issues that affect the health and safety of the tenant.
SB26 Small Loan Finance Charges (Sen. Greg Walker) –
Changes the incremental finance charge limits for small loans to a maximum 36% rate.
SB204 Notice of Lease Termination for Failure to Pay Rent (Sen. Mark Messmer) –
Changes the notice period for the termination of a lease from 10 days to 3 days.
SB253 Principal Dwelling Land Contracts (Sen. J.D. Ford) –
Contains provisions related to defining “principal dwelling land contract”, disclosures by the seller to the buyer, and a buyer’s right to the homestead deduction regardless of being conveyed the title.
SB329 Supervised Loans (Sen. Andy Zay) –
Changes current rate from 25% to 36% on supervised loans, repeals current limitations on charges that lenders contract for and receive and specifies replacement limitations, and does not allow lenders to solicit loans using a negotiable check, facsimile or other negotiable instrument.
SB359 Landlord-Tenant Relations (Sen. Jim Merritt) –
Amends current statute to require a landlord to provide to a tenant 10-day written notice of their right to cure – specifying all rent and late fees due – prior to initiating an eviction, regardless of lease types. Also includes provisions that written notice must be provided 60 days prior to any lease changes or increase in rent.
SB391 Property Matters (Sen. Mike Bohacek) –
Contains several provisions that look to limit tenants’ rights and processes for complaints about habitability, including reporting to the county prosecutor any individuals who make false claims and requiring notice from a health officer documenting a public health law or rule violation before a court may issue an order related to the property. (Current law requires reliable information be provided for a court order.)
SB442 Residential Landlord-Tenant Matters (Sen. Eddie Melton) –
Contains provisions to increase a tenant’s right to cure from 10 to 14 days, allows a tenant to withhold rent when a landlord does not remedy certain habitability issues, and establishes the Indiana Eviction Prevention and Reduction Program.
INDIANAPOLIS – Prosperity Indiana thanks Governor Holcomb for listening to our call to ensure Hoosiers' housing is protected during the current public health emergency by issuing an Executive Order on Temporary Prohibitions on Evictions and Foreclosures. But beyond this response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Prosperity Indiana calls on him to veto SEA 148 to make sure housing stability remains a long-term priority in the Hoosier state.
While the order provides a critical, temporary reprieve on evictions for the more than 30 percent of Indiana’s population who rents their homes, it does nothing to lessen the permanent damage that SEA 148 would inflict on the nearly two million Hoosier renters once the order is lifted.
Prosperity Indiana Executive Director Jessica Love said, “We applaud Governor Holcomb for recognizing that Hoosiers who are most vulnerable to COVID-19 will be sheltering in their homes throughout the duration of the pandemic. The governor clearly understands that an eviction would subject those individuals, and Indiana at large, to the ‘serious threat to the health, welfare, and safety’ that the coronavirus poses, should they be removed from their homes.
“However, housing stability is not a one-time health concern that only matters during a pandemic like we face today. Housing has impacts on the health and safety of families year-round, and this health crisis should only shine a light on the larger problems Hoosiers are facing related to widespread evictions in this state.”
Because the COVID-19 pandemic will have effects on Indiana’s economy and preexisting affordable housing and evictions crises that will long outlast any temporary measure, Prosperity Indiana and its partners in speaking out against the bill remain concerned about the dangerous, unvetted language in SEA 148. All of the concerns that the hundreds of statewide organizations and individuals who spoke out against SEA 148, after being shut out of the legislative process, still stand.
Love said, “Although tenants who express concerns about unaddressed habitability issues– while spending more time than ever in their homes to avoid or recover from COVID-19 – will temporarily receive a reprieve from evictions, the day will come when angry, bad actor landlords can retaliate once again. So, we are looking to the governor now to see beyond the present health crisis and respond to this bad bill with a veto today.”
See the original letter calling on the Governor to veto SEA 148 along with supporting documents: https://www.prosperityindiana.org/Policy-News/8840057
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.”
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
INDIANAPOLIS, IN – Today, the Indiana House is scheduled to vote on SB 340. A letter with signatures from nearly 300 organizations and individuals from around Indiana has been sent to the Speaker Brian Bosma and members of the Indiana House of Representatives voicing concern and urging a “No” vote on SB 340. This opposition is in light of the surprise last-minute amendment to the bill on February 24 that will have a significant negative impact on renters across the state.
Although SB 340’s amendment appears to have been in response to the City of Indianapolis’ new Housing Initiative, it will have statewide impact and applicability. SB 340 gives preference to landlords in a variety of ways. Most sweepingly, it takes away a city’s ability to establish landlord-tenant laws. As a result, it decreases a city’s ability to address disclosure and retaliation violations through fines, allowing more types of retaliation against tenants to occur when reporting concerns. It also awards landlords sued for retaliation, who are successful in court, attorney fees plus damages. In contrast, tenants who win a retaliation suit against their landlord only get to stay in their rental unit under the existing terms and receive one month of rent in compensation, while absorbing all of their legal fees associated with the retaliation case. One of the most basic rights outlawed by the bill is a city’s ability to require that landlords provide renters with information on their legal rights as tenants. SB 340 also makes other problematic changes that overwhelmingly favor landlords.
Keith Broadnax, Senior Vice President of Business Development at Cinnaire, stated his concerns, “As an investor, lender, and advocate for affordable housing in Indiana, Cinnaire strongly opposes SB 340 and encourages a ‘No’ vote on it. This bill will be detrimental to our Hoosier families who are already struggling to support themselves. The bill removes any fines imposed on landlords who retaliate against tenants and further limits the actions of local authorities to require that tenants be informed of the basic housing rights afforded to them by law.”
Jessica Love, Executive Director of Prosperity Indiana, said, “At Prosperity Indiana, our work is built around strengthening our communities, and bills like this only tear away at the fabric of family life and local governing power. SB 340 will clip every community’s opportunity to address the bad actors who are only adding to housing instability in this state. To counteract what legislators are being told by some is good public policy, members of our General Assembly need to hear from everyone who believes that SB 340 is an overreach. If not stopped, the bill could be adopted this week. So, the time to speak out is now. Please contact your representative immediately and ask them to vote no and kill this bill.”
Dr. Sarah Stelzner, a pediatrician and legislative chairman of the Indiana American Academy of Pediatrics shared, “We know these families and children are most vulnerable to experiencing significant health impacting issues in their rental homes, such as mold, infestations, high utility bills, and poorly maintained infrastructure. These families often fear or have experienced retaliation, including eviction, for attempting to address any problems and often have inadequate representation in court. Any eviction filed against them, whether there is a judgement or not, stays on their record and makes it even harder for a family to find quality, affordable housing in the future. We need to work to reverse the trends that have caused a dramatic increase in evictions, as well as unsafe and unhealthy housing, in a number of Indiana cities and towns. This bill seeks to undermine even local efforts to address rental habitability concerns and retaliatory evictions, which we know are leading social determinants of health.”
“SB 340 is one of the most harmful housing bills I have seen in my over 20-year housing career,” stated Amy Nelson, Executive Director of the Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana (FHCCI). “Not only does SB 340 modify current law to take away any fines for those landlords who retaliate against tenants with just cause, but it even goes so far as to say that a City cannot even demand that tenants be informed of their most basic housing rights under law, amongst other changes.”
Info on SB 340: http://iga.in.gov/legislative/2020/bills/senate/340
Don’t Know Who Your Legislator Is? Go to Find Politicians in our Advocacy Action Center: https://www.prosperityindiana.org/Action-Center
Learn more on the Prosperity Indiana’s Public Policy Page: https://www.prosperityindiana.org/Policy-Priorities
On Monday, a last-minute amendment to SB 340 passed in the last committee hearing for the House Judiciary committee for this session. The amendment dramatically changes Indiana Landlord/Tenant Law. These harmful changes will stop the current effort in Indianapolis (and possibly other cities) to address the serious rental habitability problems, lack of adequate representation of tenants, and landlord retaliation that occurs when tenants complain about violations of law.
However, SB 340 goes even further. The bill:
SB 340 could be going to the House floor vote as early as this Thursday (2/27)! If it passes the House, it seems likely the Senate will support the changes, and the bill will go right to the Governor for signature. To STOP this harmful bill from becoming law, we need your help!
Please contact your House rep and urge a NO vote on SB 340. Don’t know who your House rep is? You can find that info by entering your address under Find Politicians on our Advocacy Action Center. Make phone calls and send emails ASAP, please!
What to say? Speak from your heart on why this legislation should be stopped. Or, if you need any idea, you could say:
Please vote No on SB 340. The changes to his bill will harm housing options for far too many in our state. Indiana tenants already face significant barriers in their housing options due to lack of affordability, habitability issues, retaliation by bad acting landlords, and lack of legal representation to understand their rights. This bill goes too far in taking options away by cities in ensuring safe housing options. Please vote No!
Please act today! For your info, attached is the amendment that was made to SB 340.
Info on SB 340: http://iga.in.gov/legislative/2020/bills/senate/340
Some recent press on SB 340 and Indianapolis’ new Housing Initiative, which SB 340 would immediately pre-empt: