IndyRent program getting boost through federal relief money

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City also providing free legal services at small claims courts

INDIANAPOLIS — The IndyRent program is getting a $91 million boost from the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority.

Mayor Joe Hogsett announced Wednesday the allocation from the state will let the program accept applications for up to 12 months, an increase from the previous length of three months.

“Which we think will go a long way toward meeting that remaining need in the community,” Jeff Bennett, deputy mayor of community development for Indianapolis said.

The expansion to 12 months matches what Congress authorized through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES).

“What we want to do is make sure people have a place to stay, to use these federal funds to help them during this very difficult time and provide that housing stability that allows them to get their feet back on the ground and be able to move forward with their lives,” Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch said.

The U.S. Treasury Department reported Monday that more than 510,000 households received Emergency Rental Assistance in September, up from 459,000 in August.

In Indianapolis, the Mayor’s office says from the beginning of the program in July 2020, the city has distributed $70.7 million to over 30,000 qualified households.

“But even that extraordinary amount isn’t enough,” Bennett said.

Andrew Bradley, Policy Director for Prosperity Indiana, recently told FOX59 that most recent data shows over 85,000 Hoosiers are behind on their rent.

Indianapolis participating in eviction diversion program

Still, the Treasury Department reports that there was not a major national spike in evictions after the federal moratorium came down. Something that Bennett said he is seeing reflected in Marion County.

Bennett said he hopes the expansion of the program and access to these additional funds will be deployed in a way that he hopes continues to stave off that potential rising tide.

The city is also hoping to ease evictions at the place they are happening. They are providing on-site free legal services in the small claims courts.

Indiana also recently created an eviction diversion program. Within the program, courts are required to advise both the tenant and landlord of rental assistance, such as the IndyRent program, that is available.

“I think that the mandatory advisement is probably the most encouraging thing,” Bradley said. “And time will tell how much the other discretionary parts move the needle.”

Still, tenants rights organizations like The Ross Foundation say the eviction diversion program is not going far enough.

“If they are going to move forward with this type of diversion program, and we have to get it to where it is in law and permanent and not just temporarily or recommended,” said Dee Ross, Founder and CEO of The Ross Foundation.

Ross also says he believes a diversion program should not be controlled by a government agency. The Ross Foundation already proposed a diversion program and has a literacy program that he feels would have a long-lasting impact.

“The whole literacy program teaches people not just about rental assistance and what the resources are, it teaches them their rights.”

For those in Indianapolis still looking for assistance, though, the IndyRent program still has funding through the CARES act that needs to be spent by 2022, and another $33 million in American Rescue Plan funding that they have until 2024.

Bennett said he hopes this funding will help create a bridge to a permanent community-wide rental assistance program.

Applications for the IndyRent program are completed online. Bennett said people lacking access to apply for public benefits can visit the Marion County Public Library system for computer access or visit their Township Trustee office.

For those who have already applied for the three-month assistance, Bennett said they are emailing them to let them know that they can come back and request additional assistance.

If anyone is having difficulty with the IndyRent program, Bennett recommends they first go to the program’s website to check their status. If they need additional support, they can call the call center at 317-912-1260.

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