Rental aid report urges Indiana to distribute money faster

INDIANAPOLIS — New research finds rental assistance isn’t reaching Hoosiers who need help fast enough. The Hoosier Housing Needs Coalition is advocating for a strategy to be put in place to address this issue.

The coalition reports that Indiana’s emergency rent assistance program has only distributed 60% of the money allocated by Washington in 2020. That means tens of millions are still available and the first part money must be spent by September 30, 2022.

“Really this deep outreach and getting into community levels and knocking on doors,” said Michaela Wischmeier, research and communications specialist at Prosperity Indiana. “But it’s hard to tell or attribute it to just one factor. I mean there are so many people involved, and frankly with the data, it just shows the expenses, it doesn’t pinpoint exactly where the potential outages are.

Prosperity Indiana policy director Andrew Bradley echoed the sentiment that many factors are preventing the money from being distributed quickly.

“Part of it has to do with moving from a statewide program to local programs,” Bradley said. “Part of it also has to do with local programs that have a benefit. They are closer to the ground.

The state administers rental assistance in all but two counties. One of these counties is Marion.

IndyRent works with 16 community organizations to accept and review applications and cut checks for renters 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 so far.

Last fall, the county received a $94 million reallocation of state funds from Emergency Rental Assistance 1 (ERA1).

“It came at a really opportune time because we had spent our last ERA1 dollar last October,” Bennett said.

The Hoosier Housing Needs Coalition hopes the state will get its money out sooner. The group calls for a statewide strategy formed by people with a stake in this fight: the court, policymakers, community groups, landlords and tenants.

Bradley said that without everyone at the table, he feared some people would be left behind.

“We’re not going to have a solution that works for the people who need it the most,” Bradley said. “Again, it’s very important that their needs and their voices are represented at this table.”

The coalition said it was essential that housing assistance reached black and brown communities, households with children and low-income families. Unfortunately, the group says Indiana has one of the lowest rates of reported demographics.

“If we don’t take active steps to address this issue, we are allowing this disproportionate impact,” Bradley said.

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