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Indiana housing advocates, national groups, eye permanent federal rental assistance to help with ongoing housing crisis

State and national groups hope to make emergency rental assistance a permanent fixture to help with the ongoing housing crisis (FILE: WFIU-WTIU)
State and national groups hope to make emergency rental assistance a permanent fixture to help with the ongoing housing crisis (FILE: WFIU-WTIU)

Indiana housing advocates are hoping to see permanent federal rental assistance funding put in place to help with the state’s ongoing eviction crisis.

Over the pandemic, the federal government put roughly $46 billion dollars towards emergency rental assistance in an effort to avoid an eviction crisis.

Now, those funds are drying up. In July, Indiana – along with many other states – closed its COVID-19 emergency rental assistance portal.

Andrew Bradley, with Prosperity Indiana, said state and national groups hope to see more permanent rental assistance put in place.

“We want to establish and stand up permanent emergency rental assistance programs, and believe they need to be paired with increased tenant protections and supports to address some of those preexisting conditions,” he said.

The push for more lasting rental assistance also came up during the state’s first Indiana housing task force meeting in September.

Dee Ross is the founder and CEO of the Ross Foundation, which oversees the Indianapolis Tenant Rights Union. He said permanent rental assistance is one tool that Indiana should be using to combat the housing crisis.

“The need is greater than ever before, especially due to rent increases, property taxes increase, the lack of affordable housing,” he said. “People are starting to wake up and see, ‘man, this is getting out of control – if we don’t do something about this now, we’re going to be in the top ranks of states in the United States in the housing crisis.’”

National groups are also pushing for a more permanent program aimed at rental assistance.

Diane Yentel, President and CEO of the National Low-Income Housing Coalition, said in a statement that her group was working with Congress even before the pandemic to set up a permanent emergency rental assistance program. She said the Low-Income Housing Coalition has analyzed the many emergency rental programs that sprung up throughout the pandemic.

“Now, we are working with Congress to take these hard-fought lessons learned and authorize a permanent ERA program,” Yentel wrote. “We have had bipartisan legislation introduced in the Senate…and will advocate for Congress to advance and pass this legislation quickly.”

But, Yental said, emergency rental assistance alone won’t solve the shortage of affordable housing.

“ERA is one piece of a comprehensive housing safety net,” she wrote, adding that it should be used alongside producing additional affordable housing and improving tenant protections – and that such measures would help people nationally experiencing homelessness and “housing poverty”.

Some of the hope for permanent assistance rests with U.S. Sen. Todd Young (R) , who in 2019 and 2021 co-sponsored an Eviction Crisis Act that would set up a permanent emergency rental assistance fund.

When reached for comment, a spokesperson for Young said “Young believes the Eviction Crisis Act is a better long-term solution than continuing temporary pandemic programs.”