INDIANAPOLIS – A state task force working to improve access to housing approved its final report Thursday. It says the state doesn’t have enough housing and needs to do more to support construction of new homes.

Advocates say housing affordability has become a bigger issue since the start of the pandemic. And it’s impacting families in several ways, including at school.

“That weighs heavy on our children,” said Jeff Butts, Wayne Township schools superintendent. “It weighs heavy on our families. And we know that when they’re focused on those things, they’re less focused on what’s happening in the classroom.”

Out of his third grade students who took the IREAD test this past spring, Butts said, 80% of them were not with the district in kindergarten.

“That tells you the amount of mobility that we’re facing and that our children are facing,” Butts said.

Butts said he recently spoke with a member of the Indiana housing task force about the issue.

The group consists of lawmakers, housing officials and community activists. It was created earlier this year to issue recommendations on ways to improve housing access and affordability ahead of the new legislative session.

“If there was ever a time for this particular event to occur, now would be the time,” said State Rep. Doug Miller (R-Elkhart). “As a state, we’re blessed with funds, right? We’re blessed with jobs. We’re blessed with growth.”

The task force approved its final report Thursday. Among the recommendations: The group is calling for more state funding for infrastructure projects to support housing development.

It also wants to speed up the permitting and inspection process for builders and allow tax incentives for programs that support first-time or low-income homebuyers.

“When it comes to political parties, we had set aside 99.5% of our own biases and say, ‘Let’s work together on this particular issue, and let’s move the needle for Hoosiers,'” Miller said.

But there were some concerns from other members of the group. State Rep. Cherrish Pryor (D-Indianapolis) said she believes lawmakers need to do more than the report recommends to help renters.

“We have some out-of-state landlords who are not doing what they are supposed to do, and so we really didn’t get into addressing that in particular the way I felt that we should have,” Pryor said.

It’s not yet clear how many of the recommendations could be introduced in legislation next year and which proposals will be able to advance.

To see the draft of the housing task force’s final report before revisions were made, click here.