Hoosier renters will have more legal help after Indiana’s housing agency partnered with the Indiana Bar Foundation.

Through the partnership, low-income renters facing eviction will have access to a network of organizations providing free legal services.

The Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority “is pleased to participate in this first-of-a-kind partnership with (the Indiana Bar Foundation) to enable renters to access navigation and legal services in courts across Indiana,” said Jacob Sipe, executive director of the state housing authority, in a statement Tuesday.

“(The state housing authority) sees this as a natural extension of our partner network to assist Hoosier renters in understanding and exercising their rights and responsibilities as tenants.”

In March, the Indiana Bar Foundation agreed to a $13.1 million contract with the housing authority to help provide legal services for renters. Funding for the grant comes from the Emergency Rental Assistance 2 program, part of the Emergency Rescue Plan signed into law by President Joe Biden last year.

Fort Wayne closed its rental assistance program – created by a similar federal program, Emergency Rental Assistance 1 – in late May. Through that effort, the city provided more than $17.7 million in rental assistance, as well as $2.1 million in utility assistance.

With the Emergency Rental Assistance 2 funding, the state housing authority awarded a total of more than $28 million, divided between the Indiana Bar Foundation and the Indiana Community Action Association for housing stability services including eviction prevention, housing counseling and landlord/tenant mediation.

According to a release from the state housing authority and Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch, the Indiana Bar Foundation created a network of organizations to help renters. The list of participating groups includes the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Indiana Legal Services, Pro Bono Indiana and Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic.

In addition to representing renters in court during eviction hearings, lawyers with the network will host legal clinics around the state.

“This partnership furthers (the state housing authority’s) mission of preventing homelessness and promoting housing stability,” Crouch said in the release. “I’m proud of the collaboration happening between (the state housing authority) and (the Indiana Bar Foundation), and I hope the partnership will better the lives of Hoosiers.”

Indiana Bar Foundation President & CEO Charles Dunlap said that many of those services are already available, although network members are still hiring more attorneys.

The grant will also fund the installation of housing kiosks around the state. They will include computers and printers and will help renters access online resources and chat with remote “legal navigators” – non-lawyers who can help give advice.

“These are folks that are non-attorneys, but they’re helping people,” Dunlap said. “A lot of times people don’t need an attorney, but they need information. That’s what this piece is trying to address.”

Dunlap said the kiosks, which will be managed by the Indiana Bar Foundation, are scheduled to be installed in courts, libraries and other public locations around the state this fall.

“The goal, again, is to keep people housed,” Dunlap said. “Because that’s such a fundamental aspect of stable homes, stable families and ultimately stable cities and states.”

Statehouse and General Assignment Reporter

Brett Stover is a Reporter covering the Indiana Statehouse and general assignments for The Journal Gazette. A University of Missouri graduate, Stover has covered news in Indiana since 2021.