INDIANAPOLIS — New research finds rental relief is not reaching Hoosiers who need help fast enough. The Hoosier Housing Needs Coalition is pleading for a strategy to be put in place to solve this issue.
The coalition reports Indiana’s emergency rental assistance program has only distributed 60% of the money allocated from Washington in 2020. That means tens of millions are still available, and the first portion of money must be spent by Sept. 30, 2022.
“Really that in-depth outreach and getting into the community levels and knocking on doors,” said Michaela Wischmeier, Research and Communications Specialist with Prosperity Indiana. “But it’s hard to say or chalk it up to any one, single factor. I mean there’s so many involved with it, and something quite frankly with the data, it just shows the spending, it doesn’t call out exactly where the potential breakdowns are.”
Prosperity Indiana’s Policy Director Andrew Bradley echoed the sentiment that many factors stand in the way of the money being quickly distributed.
“Some of it has to do with shifting from a statewide program to local programs,” Bradley said. “Some of it also has to do with local programs have an advantage. That they’re closer to the ground.”
The state handles rental assistance in all but two counties. One of those counties is Marion.
IndyRent works with 16 community organizations to accept and review applications and cut the checks for tenants and landlords. Deputy Mayor Jeff Bennett said the city’s process is a work in progress, but more than $132 million has been distributed to residents to date.
Last fall, the county received a reallocation of $94 million from the state of Emergency Rental Assistance 1 (ERA1) funds.
“That came at a really opportune time because we had spent our last dollar of ERA1 last October,” Bennett said.
The Hoosier Housing Needs Coalition hopes the state will get its dollars out faster. The group is calling for a statewide strategy formed by people with a stake in this fight: the Court, policymakers, community groups, landlords and tenants.
Bradley said without everyone at the table, he worries some people will get left behind.
“We’re not going to have a solution that works for the people most in need,” Bradley said. “Again, it’s very important to have their needs and voices be represented at that table.”
The coalition said it is critical that rental assistance reaches Black and Brown communities, households with children and low-income families. Unfortunately, the group says Indiana has one of the lowest rates of reported demographic data.
“If we don’t take active steps to address this, we are enabling that disproportionate impact,” Bradley said.