The Journal Gazette
Sunday, January 19, 2020 1:00 am


Late-rent bill only promises evictions

Eviction Lab, a group of Princeton University researchers, compiled a database of eviction rates across the nation, based on 2016 data. Indiana cities did not fare well. With 7.39 evictions per 100 renters, Fort Wayne had the 13th highest eviction rate in the nation. Indianapolis finished at 14th, with a rate of 7.27%.

Ranked by number of evictions, Fort Wayne was 43rd worst in the nation; Indianapolis was second, between New York City and Houston.

Why such dismal rankings in a state that likes to boast of its housing affordability?

Advocates for the disadvantaged point to laws that favor landlords over tenants. If that's the case, a bill proposed in the current legislative session is all the more troubling. Senate Bill 204, authored by Sen. Mark Messmer, R-Jasper, would reduce from 10 days to three days the period in which a landlord must give notice before evicting a tenant for nonpayment of rent.

Joshua Gale is executive director of Just Neighbors Interfaith Homeless Network, which runs an emergency shelter for homeless families and helps those facing a housing crisis avoid eviction.

“I don't know what they think this is going to improve,” Gale said. “It's already a deck stacked for landlords. So moving that date to be shorter and shorter is going to make it harder for everybody else. So many of our clients here have evictions on their record. Where are they going to go next?”

Housing vouchers aren't a solution, because there often are not rental properties available to use the vouchers, he said. The population vulnerable to eviction doesn't have the resources most have – stable and good-paying jobs, family support, sound mental and physical health.

“Any eviction and homeless issue is going to have to address the reality that some people are just more privileged than others ... they don't have the same options,” Gale said.

Jeff Vaughan, a Fort Wayne Realtor who manages rental properties and serves on the city's Housing and Neighborhood Development Services board, wasn't aware of SB 204, but he said the legislation isn't needed or “reasonable.” Decreasing the eviction notice period would only increase eviction rates in Indiana, Vaughan said.

Messmer's bill wasn't on the Judiciary Committee hearing schedule as of Friday. But unsuccessful bills often resurface in subsequent sessions. This one should not. Eviction rate data proves Indiana landlords have no problem turning out tenants. Giving them a tool to do it more quickly is simply inhumane.

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