Housing Issues All Hoosiers Should Care About

Home. It’s the place we all long for when things get tough…or when we just need to rest our weary heads. Yet, safe and affordable housing remains one of the most elusive things for Madison County residents.

Almost two-thirds of Hoosier renters below the median rental income are considered “cost-burdened” – meaning they spend more than 30% of their income on rent alone. Minimum wage workers in Indiana would need to work 91 hours a week just to afford a two-bedroom rental, and 74 hours to afford a one-bedroom rental.

The pandemic was not kind to renters or their landlords—and the ripple effects are still being felt and dealt with by both. While tenants were given a moratorium on their rent during the COVID shutdown, their landlords were in a tight spot. As landlords are trying to recover, many have increased rent significantly. Those tenants without income over the pandemic because their positions were eliminated or because their employers shutdown for an extended period of time with no alternative work arrangement, were hard-pressed to catch up on their rent when the moratorium lifted. Now, they face rent increases as landlords play catch up. It’s a frustrating scenario for everyone.

Then, there is the matter of aging housing stock and out-of-state landlords not caring for their properties.

Indiana is one of only five states that has not established a mechanism for tenants to withhold rent from negligent landlords. Without the right to fix the unaddressed habitability issues themselves at the cost of the landlord, tenants are left to either face the associated health impacts of their living conditions or fix it at their own expense—creating an immense and unfair financial burden.

In some cases, this financial burden restricts the tenant’s ability to pay rent, forcing them to choose between their health and the risk of eviction. Of those five states with no mechanism for tenants to withhold rent from negligent landlords, Indiana has the highest eviction rate at 4.1%. Evictions directly correlate with increased homelessness, food insecurity, lower educational outcomes among children in evicted families, and higher rates of infant mortality.

Safe, affordable housing should be attainable for every Madison County resident. Fortunately, there are some terrific organizations in Madison County who stand ready to help:

  • If you are renting and are having issues with water and sewer at your rental, letting the Madison County Health Department know is a great step to take. Call 765-641-9523 between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday-Friday.
  • If you are low to moderate income and looking to rent, the Anderson Housing Authority stands ready to see if they can help. Call 765-641-2620 Monday-Friday 8 a.m.-4 p.m.
  • If you are a first-time renter, or are facing eviction, or struggling with a landlord, PathStone Corporation has Housing Counselors and Financial Coaches who can help you. Visit their website at https://pathstoneindiana.org/rental-advocacy-program/ to fill out their intake form and find the resources you need.

If any of the information above inspires you to lend your voice to helping housing advocacy efforts, Prosperity Indiana is doing a lot of work around this issue at the statehouse. Please visit https://prosperityindiana.org/Action-Center to learn more.