This story was produced by journalism students at Purdue University Fort Wayne currently enrolled in COM317 – Digital Storytelling, under the supervision of professor Heloisa Sturm Wilkerson. They reached out to 36 Indiana candidates to learn more about their stances on housing issues affecting the state. Only a handful of candidates had proposals to address the housing crisis that has affected the nation.
By Emily Coverstone, Sydney Hamblin and Megan Isenbarger
The family poverty rate in the state of Indiana is at a ten-year low, but similar to the rest of the United States, Indiana is facing a severe shortage of affordable housing for Hoosiers.
The state is facing a shortage of 135,033 affordable and available rental homes, according to a report produced by Prosperity Indiana and the National Low Income Housing Coalition.
Only a handful of candidates running for U.S. Senator and U.S. Representative positions during the 2022 election are planning on taking a stand when it comes to affordable housing.
U.S. Sen. Todd Young (R-Indiana) and U.S. Rep. André D. Carson (D-District 7) are two incumbents running for re-election who have chosen to focus on housing affordability during their campaigns, after observing how the housing crisis has affected the nation.
Drivers of housing costs
Young believes the housing affordability crisis is happening due to discriminatory local zoning and land use policies that drive up housing costs in communities across America.
Young has already begun taking steps to ensure that Hoosiers can find affordable housing. He helped introduce the Task Force on the Impact of Affordable Housing Act which aims to better understand and respond to America’s housing affordability crisis by evaluating and quantifying the impact of housing costs on other government programs to create innovative solutions to aid cost-burdened families.
According to The Polis Center at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, cost-burdened families spend more than 30% of household income on housing related expenses. Households spending more than 50% are considered to be severely cost-burdened.
The National Low Income Housing Coalition found that 72% of Hoosiers are considered severely cost-burdened, which is the highest rate in the Midwest and 13th highest in the nation.
Young hopes to fix the state’s current regulations to allow Hoosiers to find affordable housing in areas where they work and where children can get quality education.
According to the American Economic Association, cities and neighborhoods with the strongest labor markets and best schools are not building enough housing, even though they have the highest demand, which has contributed to worsening affordability to live in those areas.
“These policies exacerbate the housing affordability crisis and stifle the ability of Americans to move to areas of opportunity,” Young said on his campaign website.
Young’s Democratic opponent, Hammond Mayor Tom McDermott, Jr., did not include a position on affordable housing on his campaign website, and his campaign staff could not be reached for comment.
James Sceniak, a Libertarian who is also seeking Young’s seat in the Senate, also decided not to focus on affordable housing as one of the top issues in his election bid.
“I wanted to focus on what I believe is most affecting Hoosier life, and although affordable housing is one of them, polls are showing there are more concerns like inflation and even how we’re taking care of our veterans right now,” Sceniak said in a phone interview.
Instead of focusing on affordable housing, Sceniak decided to make his top priorities medical freedom, VetCare, fiscal sanity, criminal justice reform, gun rights, and abortion.
Demand for affordable housing continues to grow
In the race for the District 3 Congressional seat currently held by Rep. Jim Banks, neither Banks, Democratic challenger Gary Snyder, nor Independent candidate Nathan Gotsch, outlined any housing policy priorities on their websites.
However, incumbent Rep. André Carson, a Democrat who represents Indiana’s 7th Congressional district, says he is committed to doing everything in his power to keep Hoosiers in their homes and help hardworking, American families avoid losing their homes through default or foreclosures.
Carson says Hoosiers deserve to live in homes that meet their basic needs, but affordable housing for working families has become harder to find and is expected to become more difficult as the demand for affordable housing continues to grow.
The number of active housing listings in the U.S. was at its lowest in at least five years in January 2022, with 408,922 active listings on the market, a 60% drop from about 1 million listings in February 2020, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis also found that around the same time, the national median sale price for a single-family home jumped 25% from $327,100 in the fourth quarter of 2019 to $408,100 in the fourth quarter of 2021. The greatest increases were in the West, Midwest and Northeast.
Potential solutions to the crisis
Carson supports programs that provide housing assistance to Hoosiers in need as well as public-private partnerships and community development projects that expand affordable housing for more families.
Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett announced in September that the city had signed an agreement with JPC Affordable Housing Foundation and Berkley Commons LLC to resolve the city’s lawsuit with the two entities concerning two apartment complexes that were causing issues for tenants.
“This settlement will keep tenants safely and stably housed, while forcing a sale to a responsible owner with the resources and commitment to operate these properties,” Hogsett said in a Tweet.
Carson praised Hosgett for the city’s actions in a Tweet on social media saying, “Safe, affordable housing is a human right.”
“I am grateful to the City, State, & @citizensenergy for using the tools at their disposal to save these residents from a public health crisis… We must do more to protect tenants from predatory landlords. Without the ability to withhold rent and demand accountability, Hoosiers are left vulnerable.”
Carson’s Republican rival, Angela Grabovsky did not list any housing policy priorities in her campaign material; a website for Libertarian candidate Gavin Maple could not be found.
Focus on earning potential, financial incentives to build, and ‘crowdfunding”
Housing prices tend to rise with inflation, according to HomeGuides. A home’s value will begin to increase along with the inflation rate. With the increasing numbers of home values, this means that when selling a house, it’ll be at a much higher price and won’t be as affordable as it would’ve been before inflation.
On Zillow, the average cost of a house in 2022 is $212,953. That amount is considered a large and fast-growing increase since 2019, when the same house would have been sold for around $150,000.
Many Americans are experiencing their own frustrations with affordable housing. According to Pew Research, 49% of Americans say affordable housing is a major problem in their local community, an increase of 10% from early 2018.
Some politicians are hopeful that by implementing new rules, regulations and protocols, they will be able to provide relief to those who are being affected by the housing crisis.
“There are a lot of things we can do to make housing more affordable,” Sceniak said.
According to The Polis Center at IUPUI, “solutions to make housing more affordable can include ideas that are oriented toward the promotion of affordable housing development along with increasing the earning potential of low- and moderate-income families.”
There are solutions to the housing crisis that the state of Indiana, and the other states, can consider if they want affordable housing to become more prominent. One solution that is typically tossed around is to use creative finance to allow more people qualify for a mortgage and buy a home, as well as provide more affordable rental housing.
Many companies have developed approaches called “crowdfunding” to help buyers in the housing market and to also seek investors, according to the Stanford Social Innovation Review. Crowdfunding in real estate is where people come together online and pool their money to purchase property as a group.
Crowdfunding is considered to be a great way to begin the investment journey in real estate without needing to spend an excessive amount of money.
Another possible solution is to incentivize new construction of affordable homes.
Financial incentives are required to stimulate both the supply and demand sides. Developers and builders can be encouraged to build new homes that are within reach for future or first-time buyers. According to the World Economic Forum, the way the incentives work is they buy down the capital costs overall when it comes to new housing or renovation projects.
Some of the candidates have taken action in addressing the housing crisis on a local level. Along with the Task Force on the Impact of Affordable Housing Act, Young introduced and secured passage of the Housing Choice Voucher Mobility Demonstration Act. Found on Young’s website, the act “enables the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and public housing authorities to begin developing new models for incentivizing greater choice and improved mobility in HUD’s Housing Choice Voucher Program”.
Overall, there is a major affordable housing crisis in Indiana. Some Hoosier candidates have made this crisis one of their top priorities in order to make a positive impact on their state, while others have not. Whoever is elected will define whether the state will be able to make strides toward more affordable housing in the future.
The general election is Nov. 8. Visit https://indianavoters.in.gov/ for information on polling locations and to check registration status.