More Affordable Housing Needed

A new report highlights the dire need for more affordable housing in the nation—including in Indiana. The 2019 edition of Out of Reach was jointly released June 18 by Prosperity Indiana, a statewide community development network, and the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), a research and advocacy organization dedicated solely to achieving affordable and decent homes for the lowest income people.

According to the report, a worker in Indiana earning minimum wage ($7.25/hour) would need to work 71 hours each week to be able to afford a modest one-bedroom rental unit at fair market value. In Marion County, the number of hours rises to 80. Kathleen Lara, policy director for Prosperity Indiana, said, “There’s an underinvestment in affordable housing in Marion County and around the state.”

She added that wages have not kept pace with affordable housing need and production. “The broader concern is that we need a larger investment of affordable housing to scale.” She said the report relies on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development calculation of what’s affordable, which includes housing and utilities but not transportation, healthcare, or childcare costs. However, those items are not being ignored. “We realize housing costs don’t happen in a vacuum. These areas are all parts of our discussion,” Lara said. “This report is geared toward how we calculate housing affordability, and it’s a pretty remarkable cost.”

At a June 26 monthly media briefing, Mayor Joe Hogsett and senior members of his administration acknowledged the affordable housing challenge and outlined several ways it is being addressed. “Part of the problem is supply—we need to create more,” said Jeff Bennett, deputy mayor for community development. He noted that tax credit applications are due at the end of July, which should spur some new construction and rehabbing of existing properties. He acknowledged the Indianapolis Neighborhood Housing Partnership (INHP), which has homeownership funds to help qualified applicants build or rehab homes. He also mentioned that the nonprofit organization Near East Area Renewal is looking at a community land trust model. Bennett added that while the Indianapolis Housing Agency has 1,000 housing choice vouchers—funds that can assist with public housing, including portable housing—there is a huge waiting list.

The City is also concerned with displacement. “Can we keep neighborhoods affordable as they see increased investment?” Bennett asked. This is of particular concern in areas that will benefit from improved transit options. “As IndyGo’s investment gets launched, how do we insure what happens in the vicinity of transit is not just high-rent luxury units?” He cited programs like INHP’s equitable transit-oriented development fund that will insure the development of mixed-use, mixed-income properties along transit corridors, as part of the solution.

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