INDIANAPOLIS — After not accepting applications for months, the state of Indiana is again offering help to Hoosiers who are facing the threat of eviction.
Operated by the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority, Indiana’s rental assistance portal is now taking applications for emergency rental aid for those facing financial hardship caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It's great news. It's something we've been hoping would happen ever since we got word the portal would be closing the first time back in August,” said Andrew Bradley, policy director at Prosperity Indiana.
He said the current crisis involving families who cannot afford their rent is one of the most significant issues now facing the state.
“This is an issue we expect to persist not just for the next couple of weeks or months, but well into next year,” said Bradley, adding that more than a quarter million Hoosier families are now at risk of eviction.
Social service agencies are having trouble keeping up.
“We've seen over the past few weeks, each week the average number of eviction intakes almost triples,” explained Brandon Beeler, director of the Housing Law Center at Indiana Legal Services. “Eviction cases have dramatically increased throughout the state.”
The state's rental assistance program offers up to six months of rental costs for families that qualify, but it does have some new restrictions that mean fewer Hoosiers will get to use the program. There are now tighter income limits. And in order to get rental assistance, families must now provide evidence that they are actually being evicted.
“It could provide a perverse incentive,” said Bradley. “Even landlords who want to help may feel like they need to go ahead and file an eviction notice, so the tenant can be eligible for funding. And can you even imagine being a tenant who now might have to ask for an eviction to be filed to get into the assistance program? The problem then is that eviction filing can stay on your record for a ling time and make it much harder to get approved for housing in the future.”
Beeler shared those concerns.
“The mere filing of an eviction can truly affect someone’s ability to get future housing, so I do have some concerns about that requirement,” he said.
The state’s rental assistance portal is funded by $15 million in CARES Act money and is available to residents across Indiana – except for those who live in Marion County. Marion County has its own, separate rental assistance program.
Both programs are considered underfunded based on the large number of Indiana residents facing unemployment and experiencing financial hardship due to the lingering pandemic.
“We’re going to need a larger housing stability plan in order to cover that need fully,” Bradley said.