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INDIANAPOLIS – A new Indiana law establishes a statewide task force aimed at improving access to housing.

Created by House Enrolled Act 1306, the task force will study areas like housing shortages for low- and middle-income families, state laws already in place and potential local incentives for increased housing options.

The task force will consist of lawmakers from both parties as well as advocates for renters, landlords and homeowners.

The group will publish a report with recommendations by November 1, which may include suggestions for new legislation.

“I wouldn’t be surprised to have it take a look at what local regulations are in place that are currently impeding housing growth at an affordable price point,” said State Rep. Doug Miller (R-Elkhart).

Advocates say a lack of access to affordable housing options in Indiana became a bigger problem after the pandemic began. Data from Princeton University’s Eviction Lab shows Indiana is among the leading states for evictions throughout the pandemic.

“We have members, Hoosier Action members who have waited for two to five years on [the] waiting list just to get on Section 8, or affordable housing,” said Stephanie Zhang, a community organizer in Bartholomew County for Hoosier Action.

One Hoosier Zhang has worked with, Randy Shelton, was homeless for eight months after receiving an eviction notice from his Columbus landlord in 2019.

“There’s places out there, but they’re not affordable,” Shelton said. “We’re talking rent is over $1,000 a month.”

Some housing advocates say they hope to see the legislature address address the recent rise in rates for renters and home buyers.

“Imagine if we had some type of policy in place to offset that increase, that extra $500 can be covered,” said Dee Ross of The Ross Foundation.

Gov. Eric Holcomb also signed a bill into law this month that allows some eviction court records to be sealed. That would include situations when the case is dismissed or if the judgment is in favor of the tenant.