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Affordable rentals hard to come by for some Hoosiers

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By Mary Kuhlman

After writing a check to their landlord, many low-income Hoosiers don't have much more to live on, according to a new report.

The National Low-Income Housing Coalition released the data, which found that more than 75 percent of extremely low-income renters in Indiana spend more than half of their pay on rent and utility costs. Coalition research director Megan Bolton said that leaves them with very little to cover other basic necessities including food, transportation and child care.

"Certainly, if any emergency comes up, it makes it very difficult for them to take care of that," she said, "and then they may be at a higher risk of not being able to pay their rent, or facing eviction, or facing homelessness."

Bolton said the average fair-market rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Indiana is $729. To afford it without paying more than 30 percent of income on housing, a household must earn more than $2,400 monthly. The report found a shortage of more than 144,000 affordable rental units in Indiana.

The lack of affordable housing can be traced to the 2008 mortgage meltdown, Bolton said, when it became harder for people to secure loans to purchase a house.

"We've seen this huge influx of renters, but not a corresponding influx in development of new multifamily or even single-family rental units," she said. "Rental vacancy rates are at historic lows, and that just means rents are being driven up."

Bolton cited some positive developments that will help expand the supply of rental housing. Funding now is being set aside for the National Housing Trust Fund and will be distributed to states next year to create or preserve units affordable to low-income households.

"Seventy-five percent of funds have to go to extremely low-income households," she said, "and the other 25 percent go to very low-income households. So this is huge, this is actually targeting those households we know have the greatest need."

Additionally, a recent Housing and Urban Development grant will expand affordable housing for extremely low-income populations and people with disabilities.

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