Partnerships Expand Affordable Housing Options

Greater Indy Habitat for Humanity's "Ag Build" during the 2017 Indiana State Fair pairs volunteers with homeowners who contribute sweat equity to build a new home. Thanks to a partnership with Near North Development Corporation, the completed home was moved to a lot in Crown Hill neighborhood. Photo courtesy of Greater Indy Habitat for Humanity.

by Thomas P. Healy

Long-standing efforts to increase Midtown’s inventory of affordable housing stock received a boost in 2017 with the award of a $5 million New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) to the Indianapolis Neighborhood Housing Partnership (INHP).

The allocation from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) will be used to rehabilitate abandoned housing or to construct new housing for low- and moderate-income individuals and families. “The NMTC program plays an important role in a neighborhood’s revitalization and addresses Mayor Hogsett’s goal of bringing back to life the more than 2,000 abandoned houses in Indianapolis,” said Moira Carlstedt, president and CEO of INHP. “Homes located in a redeveloping area that are purchased and rehabbed increase the availability of safe, decent, and affordable housing stock for families.”

The Crown Hill neighborhood will be one beneficiary of the citywide program: INHP is partnering with the Near North Development Corporation to develop homes there in 2018. “We applied to build or rehabilitate single-family homes,” said Joe Hanson, CFO and senior vice president of strategic initiatives for INHP. “We expect the homes to be habitable in the 4th quarter of 2018.” He said $1.2 million of the NMTC award will be applied to Crown Hill.

Hanson said INHP’s priority is to turn liabilities—abandoned properties that are detrimental to street, block, or neighborhood—into assets. “This is intended to be leading-edge strategy—to take the toughest challenges on a street and abate them,” he said.

The NMTC program is not the only one designed to preserve affordability in targeted neighborhoods. Thanks to a Lilly Endowment grant, new programs like Rehab Match and Home Value Guaranty enable INHP to offer incentives for low- to moderate-income families earning up to 120 percent of area medium income (AMI) to buy either vacant or abandoned homes to rehabilitate.

The Lilly grant also lets INHP try other strategies in Crown Hill, such as low-interest loans or grants to help existing homeowners who need to make modest and/or essential repairs. “The Stabilization Repair program is likewise limited to low- and moderate-income families,” Hanson said. Qualified households earn 80% of AMI. He said the program “is designed to help these low- and moderate-income residents remain in their neighborhood.”

INHP is working in partnership with the Near-North Development Corporation (NNDC), whose president, Michael Osborne, has identified suitable Crown Hill properties for all of these programs. “He’s our liaison with the community,” Hanson said. “We want community engagement as we deploy the programs and to be respectful of the priorities of the neighborhood.”

Osborne is excited about the partnership with INHP. “They have access to capital that we couldn’t have gotten on our own while we’re lending development expertise and promoting the availability of these programs,” he said. “We have an understanding of the local housing market and how to change the market,” he added. “From that standpoint, it’s the perfect and complementary relationship.”

Under Osborne’s leadership, NNDC has spent $10 million since 2010, buying, demolishing, and rebuilding homes. “If you drive down the 3100 block of Kenwood, it looks radically different than the 3700 block of Kenwood because that’s where we’ve spent a lot of money over the past few years.”

Osborne says the organization’s success in bringing nearly 70 homes back into productive use is the result of collaborations. For the past four years, NNDC has partnered with Greater Indy Habitat for Humanity to place Habitat’s “Ag Build” homes (constructed by volunteers at the Indiana State Fairgrounds during the Indiana State Fair) in the Crown Hill neighborhood. Three homes in Crown Hill were built by Habitat on NNDC parcels in 2017.

Between the INHP and Habitat partnerships, Osborne expects as many as 22 new or totally renovated homes to be ready for occupancy by December 2018. “We already own the property that is really concentrated in the northern half of Crown Hill neighborhood,” he said. “That’s an impact!”

According to Osborne, the location of some of the parcels within Maple Crossing’s quarter-mile focus area around 38th and Illinois streets has brought favorable attention. “The Great Places destination and focus has definitely helped secure additional and consistent funding,” he said.

For example, Osborne said NNDC was able to obtain an additional $200,000 grant from the City of Indianapolis for rehab funds to help existing homeowners with needed repairs. The City also awarded NNDC $360,000 in 2018 Community Development Block Grant funds to replace long-vacant, abandoned homes on Capitol, Graceland, and Kenwood avenues. Construction on those homes is already under way.

These affordable housing programs complement other incentives for homeownership, such as Indy Chamber’s countywide Anchoring Revitalization Program. Launched in September 2017, the “Live, Buy, and Hire” strategy is designed to stimulate redevelopment and create business opportunities in the neighborhoods that surround some of Indianapolis’ major anchor institutions.

Participating Midtown anchor institutions include Crown Hill Cemetery Foundation, Butler University, and the IMA at Newfields. As part of the program’s “Live” component, Indy Chamber is partnering with INHP, which will assist in providing down payment assistance to anchor institution employees buying homes in targeted neighborhoods. Home renovation grants to employees already living in those neighborhoods will also be made available.

“We’re pleased by the enthusiasm and engagement of our institutional partners, and encouraged by the ‘Live’ pilot program led by INHP,” said Michael Huber, president and CEO of Indy Chamber. “Our anchor institutions can be catalysts for homeownership, employment, homegrown enterprise, and investment in our urban core.”