A Butler-Tarkington couple are developing housing that stabilizes neighborhoods, promotes aging in place, and builds intergenerational wealth while retaining neighborhood residential character. Brenda Vance and her husband Prinest, designed, built, and sold what’s called a Chicago 2-Flat – one of the most popular housing styles in the Windy City.
Brenda worked in Chicago for many years before moving back to Indy in 2012. “When i lived in Chicago, I lived in a 2 flat,” she said. During her 25 year career as a developer, she built many such units in Chicago but this is the first one in Indianapolis.
“The way it works in Chicago, whoever can’t climb stairs lives on the first floor,” she said. It’s an ideal situation for older parents who can have younger family members live upstairs. “That’s how a lot of people get their start in life. If you stay in it long enough the rent will pay the mortgage,” she said, adding, “Families can save money and create generational wealth that stays in the family and increases neighborhood stability.”
Another benefit of the housing style is that it builds population density while retaining neighborhood character. From the outside, the Rookwood home doesn’t look out of place. Its curb appeal is no different from any of the surrounding houses in the neighborhood. Inside, the 1,300 sq. ft. home has 2.5 baths, and 2 separate entrances.
“We served as our own general contractor and subbed everything out,” Brenda said. Rather than quick and easy, the Vances opted for the craftsman approach — high ceilings, custom trim, and high-end finishes. “We did it the old-fashioned way,” Brenda said with pride.
While some lenders have balked at financing such projects, the Vances found a construction lender who was willing to take a chance. “They were excited to be one of the first lenders for intergenerational housing,” Brenda said. Finding a lender for the buyer proved to be a greater challenge. “The lender only wanted to finance a single-family residence,” Brenda said. They showed the lender Fannie Mae documentation that allows 75% of rental income to be considered toward income. “The FHA does this all the time,” Brenda said. But even with a high appraisal the loan took a long time because the lender didn’t understand the concept.”
Eventually, the paperwork was approved and the house sold in September, 2020. This validation from the marketplace and from the lending community has inspired the Vances to plan additional projects. “We went to tax sales and bought properties,” Prinest said. “We’re going to do some more. It’s not a one-and-done.”