INDIANA — Southern Indiana housing and homelessness advocates met in Indianapolis Wednesday to voice disapproval of a Senate vote to override the governor’s veto of a housing bill and to show support for a separate housing bill they say will provide better protection for both tenants and landlords.
Carolyn King, founding member of grassroots coalition Clark County CARES, and Barb Anderson, executive director of Haven House Services, Inc. were among those who spoke during a news conference in Indianapolis hosted by the political action committee Hoosier Action.
The meeting comes two days after the Indiana Senate voted 30-17 to override a veto last March by Gov. Eric Holcomb of a bill that would prevent a governmental body from regulating certain parts of the tenant-landlord relationship including the screening process, security deposit and lease applications and terms. The bill also includes a provision that would expand manufactured housing, which can be less expensive than traditional structures.
Holcomb previously said he vetoed the bill based on its timing with the pandemic, and that it was “not the right time for that overly broad language to have become law” related to housing.
Kate Hess Pace of Hoosier Action said during the news conference that if the Indiana House also votes to override the bill, it could lead to “thousands of Hoosiers immediately facing eviction in sub-zero temperatures in the middle of a pandemic,” she said. “This is immoral, this is unconscionable and this dims the future for all of us as families are plunged into crisis ...making it harder for all of us to recover.”
King talked about Clark County CARES, which provides resources and education for people affected by addiction, and said stable housing is crucial for a person working to maintain sobriety. Each week when the group — which includes community members, judges, health and mental health professionals — meets, they talk about what is needed next.
“Every week we ask the judge ‘are evictions still on hold?’” King said. “Because if somebody received treatment [and] gets into housing...that is so huge for them staying in long-term recovery.
“We cannot put them out on the street.”
She told the group that in Southern Indiana, it can cost around $2,000 just to get started in a new rental, which includes a security deposit and first and last month’s rent. But things can get decidedly more difficult if the person has an eviction on the record.
And, although there’s still a moratorium in place for kicking tenants out of a rental due to the pandemic, the evictions themselves can still be filed in court.
“We are very very worried about the numbers of evictions that we’re seeing,” said Anderson, who has worked with the unsheltered community for 40 years. “They’re already being filed, they’re going to be right there and ready the moment the moratorium is off and that means we’re going to see an onslaught of family homelessness like we have never seen before.
“Overriding that veto is, in my opinion, irresponsible.”
Even if the veto stands after a House vote, some participants say there still needs to be stronger protection for both tenants and landlords, which is why they support Indiana House Bill 1219.
This legislation, authored by Rep. Ed Clere, R-New Albany, includes a provision that would allow for expungement of eviction on an individual’s records in certain cases, including if the eviction was dismissed or the tenant and landlord came to an agreement.
The house bill also includes language that if passed, would require a landlord to provide a prospective tenant with the tenant scoring report if the person is rejected based on something in the report. It also includes housing courts to be established under the specialty courts in Indiana, joining the likes of drug and addiction courts, family and veterans courts.
“We have to make sure that Hoosiers understand that the housing issue is so huge,” Anderson said.
Advocates at the meeting also pushed for support of Indiana House Bill 1358, which would require employers to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant women who are working and allow the Indiana Department of Labor to investigate related complaints.