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Advocates urge legislators to focus on housing habitability issues in Indiana

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Housing advocates are making an urgent plea by asking the General Assembly to take immediate actions to address a growing housing habitability problem.

They say the longer legislators delay, the more people will suffer.

Advocates say landlords saw record-breaking profits, but the cost to report substandard housing continues to rise. There were very few protections for the renters, and they say legislators need to take the same urgency they apply to certain issues and apply it to this.

Habitable housing isn’t as easy as it sounds for thousands of Hoosiers. Sian Anderson is one of the many hoping a change to the law creates changes for the better.

“The floor is about to collapse. The ceiling is about to collapse,” she said.

Anderson says a few life chances changed her financial status, so she’s fallen behind, but her pleas for repairs weren’t answered even before then.

“You have to go over the leasing office’s head to corporate just to be heard,” Anderson said.

The Hoosier Housing Needs Coalition is advocating for people just like her. Several pieces of legislation have been proposed but haven’t gotten far.

“What are Hoosier tenants supposed to do. They follow the process. They keep paying their rent. They reach out to the landlord. And the landlord doesn’t respond. What else are you supposed to do if they withhold rent, they get served in eviction notice,” said Amy Nelson with the Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana.

House Bill 1148 aimed to enforce inhabitability standards that never got a hearing, and Senate Bill 202 was sent to the summer committee. With an estimated 500 people evicted weekly in Indianapolis, according to the coalition, they say there is no time to wait.

Angela Espada, executive director for the Indiana Catholic Conference, said, “Dignity of the pursing and helping the poor and vulnerable, and in this case tenants who don’t have rights when you compare those to the landlords.”

Roughly half of Indiana residents are renters, and with a growing number of out-of-state property owners, some argue it’s adding to the growing renter habitability problem. And for many people, particularly low income just moving isn’t always an option.

“It’s expensive to move. There are application fees, background checks, a new security deposit. Plus moving costs, time off of work,” Nelson said. “We can’t expect people to just move somewhere else.”

Anderson says it’s an ongoing battle but one she’s ready to keep fighting.

“We deserve to be heard,” she said.

Anyone going through this should contact their religious legislator directly.