A housing task force this week recommended more than a dozen policies that can help Indiana address its affordable housing crisis.
But its final report was not unanimously approved.
The task force is made up of lawmakers and stakeholders from the housing sector, including builders, lenders, realtors and tenant advocates.
The task force’s recommendations include tax incentives for first-time and low-income home buyers; state funding for housing infrastructure; incentives for local governments to relax zoning and design standard regulations; and addressing substandard housing.
Indiana Builders Association President Paul Schwinghammer said the focus on low-income communities is important – but cautioned lawmakers not to be too limited.
“Many areas of the state need this infrastructure support for workforce housing," Schwinghammer said. "So, it covers a broad spectrum of income ranges, not just for low-income.”
The recommendations also include allowing third-party inspections during home building, to decrease delays. Goshen Mayor Jeremy Stutsman, representing local governments, expressed concerns.
“But we really do appreciate that it’s looking at incentivizing and not mandating on local communities,” Stutsman said.
Stutsman was one of two people who voted against the final report. In particular, he took issue with the third-party inspections proposal and a recommendation to oppose any new sales tax on services. He said that was too expansive a concept for a housing task force to unilaterally oppose.
Rep. Cherrish Pryor (D-Indianapolis) also voted against the final report. She said there was an imbalanced focus on building new housing.
“But we also have to protect the people who are renters," Pryor said. "We also have to protect the people who currently have housing that are getting out-priced because assessed values are going up so much.”
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The recommendation to address substandard housing was only added at the last minute, during the task force's final meeting, after an impassioned plea from Sen. Fady Qaddoura (D-Indianapolis).
"Every responsible corporate landlord should get the support of the state of Indiana," Qaddoura said. "I don't understand the hesitation about going after negligent, irresponsible people who violate our laws."
Rep. Doug Miller (R-Elkhart), the task force co-chair, said the group’s final report isn’t perfect. But he said its work can help him make the case to other lawmakers that now is the time to act.
“As a state, we’re blessed with funds, right?" Miller said. "We’re blessed with jobs; we’re blessed with growth.”
The spotlight now turns to the legislature, which can further develop and enact those policies in its upcoming session, beginning in January.
Miller noted, though, that he doesn't think the task force's work is done.
"I'm going to offer that, any legislation that we put forth, we need to reconvene this task force in ," Miller said. "Establish some benchmarks to see the actions that we're going to take moving forward - how impactful they're going to be."