Are we in an 'Eviction Tsunami?'"
“I’m wishing I had a crystal ball to tell you all what will be happening with eviction filings in April," said Monroe County Circuit Court IV Judge Catherine Stafford as community members gathered to discuss “Are we in an ‘Eviction Tsunami?’” at this month’s Wake Up! with United Way.
The virtual panel welcomed Judge Stafford, along with Beacon, Inc. Rapid Re-housing Coordinator Amy Harrison and Housing & Eviction Prevention Project Coordinator Tonda Radewan to explore how we can address housing security and evictions as we rebuild from COVID-19.
There were 812 evictions filed in Monroe County in 2019, but that number dropped dramatically to 559 in 2020 due to the eviction moratoriums in response to COVID-19, Judge Stafford reported. She said that it is too soon to tell what 2021 might hold.
The current CDC eviction moratorium will expire at the end of March, and many in our community may suddenly be facing eviction. According to Judge Stafford, it has been ruled in Texas that the expiration of the moratorium is unconstitutional, but no such ruling has been made in Indiana.
Despite the drop in eviction numbers, people in our community are struggling. Radewan reported anecdotally that the Housing & Eviction Prevention Project is seeing an increase in calls from people who are worrying about being evicted.
As we approach the end of the eviction moratorium, Radewan commented that many people in the community are feeling like they don’t know the answers to this issue.
“But we’ve been working really hard to try to find one and help people in need,” she said.
Multiple organizations in our community are providing rent assistance to help prevent evictions. Beacon, Inc. received $500,000 in state funding to help those whose employment has been impacted by COVID-19, said Harrison. According to her, Beacon, Inc. and New Hope for Families have helped 90 – 100 families in our area with this funding.
As we begin to rebuild from COVID-19, we have the opportunity to address housing security and evictions and reimagine a brighter future that works for all.
Judge Stafford said an important step is encouraging mediation between the landlord and tenant before the eviction must be filed with the court. This allows tenants to avoid having an eviction on their record.
Additionally, Radewan advocated for the ability to expunge past evictions, and Judge Stafford echoed this.
“You can expunge a DUI. You can expunge a lot of crimes,” said Judge Stafford. “But you can’t expunge an eviction in the state of Indiana.”
Having an eviction on record makes it even harder for low-income families to find housing. Judge Stafford commented on how many landlords who accept applicants with evictions have reputations for poorly maintained units.
“The lack of affordable housing and the lack of an ability to expunge an eviction really forces some people into unsafe living conditions,” she said. “And that is heartbreaking.”
If you’d like to engage with this topic further, watch the full event and explore the resources below.
Housing & Evictions Resources
- Beacon, Inc. Website
- Housing & Evictions Prevention Project Flyer
- Indiana Emergency Rental Assistance (IERA) Information for Renters
- IERA Program Assistance Examples
- IERA Information for Landlords
- IERA Information for Internet Providers
- IndianaHousingNow.org Housing Resources
- Informational Summons Packet for Evictions
- Landlord and Tenant Settlement Conference Program Flyer
- Landlord and Tenant Settlement Conference Program Website
- Order on Possession Form Example
- Call IN211 (Dedicated navigators can help with rental assistance questions)
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Wake Up! with United Way is a collaborative project of United Way of Monroe County and IU’s Political and Civic Engagement Program. The series is made possible by the following sponsors:
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