How does housing affordability affect options for those who were formerly incarcerated? Several members of our audience inspired this question.
Marie Morse is the executive director of Homestead CS, a housing counseling agency based in Lafayette.
She said her organization’s coverage area has a physical lack of affordable units — which is the main contributor to higher costs for available units.
“In most of the places I know, we've got to have more housing,” she said. “We just don't have enough.”
Morse said in the counties her organization serves, the housing options often go to higher-income families first. She also said biases against people with a felony conviction can make it much more difficult for them to find housing.
“When you say low-income housing, which for felons, that's probably going to be where they start off because they’re struggling on a job, people get very concerned about that, ‘not in my backyard’ kind of thing,” she said.
There are also no federal or state protections for people who were formerly incarcerated.
Morse said removing the stigma behind those who have been incarcerated could be a huge help in pushing for more equitable options.
“As a community – as a nation – we need to be a little more considerate about things,” she said. “And that if someone has made a mistake one time, I don't think they need to pay for that the rest of their lives.”
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Morse said her organization focuses on keeping those who have housing already in this housing and preventing them from being evicted or facing challenges in affordability. She said this has become increasingly difficult as housing prices in her area for many renters or homeowners have risen.
“It’s actually going to take money,” she said. “And when I talk to developers, they cannot. In our county, the last time I talked to one said the cheapest house he can build is $260,000. And that's not affordable to someone just out of jail; that's not affordable to a low-income family.”
Morse said her organization is looking into building affordable housing for seniors and pushing financial education for all Hoosiers – including those who are in or just out of jail.
Morse said Homestead CS has also looked into speaking with landlords about cooperating better with people who may have been convicted and those who may have felony convictions and asking there be more coordination in renting to these groups.
However, Morse said mitigating this housing affordability crisis will take community cooperation from all levels to solve this issue.