Hamilton County braces for anticipated wave of evictions post moratorium

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NOBLESVILLE, Ind. — Indiana’s wealthiest county will not escape the impending housing crisis after the federal halt on evictions for nonpayment lifts. Under the federal order, renters cannot be evicted for not paying their rent until after March 31.

About 10,000 rental households in Hamilton County were already cost-burdened before the pandemic, spending more than 30% of their income on housing. This means there is often not enough extra money to afford the remainder of their basic needs.

“It was just amazing to see how many people really are living close to the edge,” Andrea Davis, Executive Director of HAND Inc., said.

Prior to the pandemic, according to the HAND Inc. 2018 Housing Needs Assessment, 38% of renters and 14% of homeowners spent more than 30% of their income on housing costs.

“When you’re not able to save because all of your money is going out to pay for the basics, you’re sort of just one catastrophe away from not being able to pay your rent,” Davis explained.

Extravagant homes and award-winning schools paint only a portion of the picture in Hamilton County. The housing needs assessment indicates 48% of people work in the seven lowest-wage industries, like retail and food service.

“You need places for them to live,” Davis said. “It’s a workforce development issue as well.”‘

Danielle Carey-Tolan serves as the Westfield Washington Township Trustee. The trustees help people meet their basic needs, like helping them afford rent.

Carey-Tolan said her office staff have not noticed an increase in requests for help yet because of the Centers for Disease Control’s moratorium that remains in place.

“But, like I said, people are coming with much higher rent and utility needs than they have been in the past,” Carey-Tolan explained.

Carey-Tolan added she has noticed landlords not renewing tenants’ leases.

“So, they’ve not evicted them but they’re not renewing leases,” Carey-Tolan said. “So, we’re going to see a homeless population that we’ve never seen before.”

Landlords receiving zero payment right now are feeling the pressure too. Kathleen Crebo, an attorney for property owners at the Hocker Law LLC, knows this issue intimately.

“They’re unable to make payments in the house in which they live, and at the same time make the payment on the rental property for which they’re receiving no income,” Crebo said. “They’re strapped with two mortgage payments. They can’t afford it.”

Crebo said some of her clients are deciding to sell their properties and leave the business due to the impact of the moratoriums. She said some of her clients have experienced hardships in which their tenants had stopped payments even before the pandemic began.

“They’ve been in the business for 20 years and they’re getting out because of this order,” Crebo said. They can’t afford it. They can’t afford to let somebody rent and maybe make a security deposit and then stop paying, sign the declaration, and not pay rent.”

Back in Hamilton County, Davis and Carey-Tolan both elaborated on the lack of housing that is affordable to people who work in the community. According to the 2018 study, the county needs 3,465 more rental units and 6,700 more for-sale units by 2022 for households earning less than the area median income.

“We’d need about another 3,400 by next year,” Davis said. “So that’s not gonna happen.”

The Hamilton County Court Administrator said as of February 19, 111 eviction cases have been filed in Hamilton County for 2021.  In 2019, there were 1318 evictions filed; and in 2020, 458 evictions. It is important to note, we do not know the reasons for these evictions being filed at this time.

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