Indiana lawmakers, housing advocates talk affordable housing needs

IN Focus: Indiana Politics

INDIANAPOLIS — Several officials and housing advocacy organizations met with Indiana lawmakers Tuesday to discuss potential ways to grow the availability of affordable housing in Indiana.

Housing advocates say Indiana has had a lack of affordable housing options for years, but the problem has only gotten worse during the pandemic.

“Indiana only has 37 affordable and available units for every 100 extremely low-income households, and that’s actually the second lowest availability rate in the Midwest,” said Andrew Bradley, policy director for Prosperity Indiana.

“In terms of the housing affordability across our state, I think we all recognize that there are challenges,” said Jacob Sipe, executive director of the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority.

At a meeting Tuesday for the interim study committee for fiscal policy, state lawmakers heard from officials and organizations, along with Hoosiers like Scott Umsteadt, a Navy veteran who qualified for affordable housing in 2012.

“The housing program has really helped us actually beat poverty and actually have some level of success,” Umsteadt said.

“The waitlist to get on these programs to get help and assistance getting into the housing and the waitlist to get into the housing is months, sometimes years,” he added.

Umsteadt and the Indiana Affordable Housing Council are advocating for a five-year tax credit that some other states have implemented to encourage more construction of the housing needed.

A total of $30 million in tax credits would be available each year under the proposed program across the state, according to Mark Shublak, an attorney representing the Indiana Affordable Housing Council.

“Availability and affordability are key issues for our housing situation in Indiana,” Shublak said.

Lawmakers are divided on what the solutions should be, including whether a tax credit would be effective.

“I think we can tell locals to look at your regulations and zoning requirements and see how that affects your housing,” said State Rep. Tim Brown (R-Crawfordsville), who serves as vice chair of the interim study committee on fiscal policy.

State Rep. Brown said he believes solutions should come from the local level. But State Rep. Ed DeLaney said he feels a state tax credit should be just part of the path forward.

“I think working on housing that is either abandoned or semi-abandoned or deteriorated and finding ways to support the rebuilding of those, that’s much less expensive,” State Rep. DeLaney said.

State lawmakers will continue to discuss the tax credit as an option, State Rep. Brown said.

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