Over the next two decades, Indiana is expected to add over a quarter of a million jobs to the economy. Tommie Jones, quality control inspector for Cook Medical, is one of the employees hoping to move into the area to work, but she cannot find housing that she can afford. She was forced to squeeze in with her sister’s family, while waiting – and hoping – for a place of her own. 

This situation is familiar to millions of Hoosiers, as well as to new residents who are migrating to the state for work. 

The big question is: How are we going to solve the Indianapolis metro area housing shortage so folks like Tommie who want to live, and invest in, the communities in which they work can do so? 

Start with Common Sense

The Common Sense Institute recently issued its Indianapolis Metropolitan Area Housing Affordability Report and there is no sugarcoating its findings. Of particular note: 

  • Thanks to high interest rates and housing prices, the cost to buy an average-priced home exploded by 58% from late 2022 to early 2023. 
  • While the average wage grew from $22.53/hour (2012) to $29.34 (2023), the average person needs to work 58.17 hours a week to afford a home, up from 29.58 in 2013 and 37.13 in 2018.  
  • Since January of 2022, housing affordability has decreased by 33.2%. Since 2014, affordability has plummeted 77.4%. 
  • To meet demand from professionals like Ms. Jones and millions of other Hoosiers, we will need to build between 66,000 – 115,000 housing units in the next five years. 

 Behind each of these statistics is a person, a family, a professional, a hardworking employee… someone who wants to live, work, and invest in a thriving community. That dream can feel impossibly out of reach. 

What Are We Doing to Solve the Indianapolis Metro Area Housing Shortage?

The housing shortage is not a game we can win in the first quarter. In fact, we’re going to have to go into overtime to get a handle on the issue and to ensure Hoosiers have access to equitable, achievable housing. It takes all of us. 

Advocating for – and Implementing – Fair and Balanced Housing Practices

Organizations like Build Indiana Roots work collaboratively with policy makers, developers, community leaders, and the public to advocate for balanced housing practices. For example, aesthetic standards – which include restrictions such as prohibiting the use of certain exterior materials, like vinyl siding, requiring more expensive exterior materials, prescribing minimum square footage and number of rooms, requiring non-structural architectural features like porches and balconies, and mandating full size basements – not only limit consumer choice but push prices upward by thousands of dollars. 

To put this into perspective, for every $1000 increase in cost, 4,768 Indiana households are priced out of the market. By revisiting policies, communities can make great strides towards achievability.  

Collaborating for Progress

City officials can leverage their reach to champion more projects that mix market-rate and affordable units in downtown areas. With tax increment financing (TIF), for example, the city issues bonds for a project based on the number of units allocated for those who make less than the area’s median income. Other initiatives include project-based vouchers and grant programs from sources like the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.  

Cities can also team up with not-for-profit developers in a PILOT situation. Payment in lieu of taxes reduces the tax burden of some properties, making it more attractive to build achievable solutions. Rusty Carr, deputy director of Indianapolis’s Department of Metropolitan Development, says, “There are lots of opportunities to think about a variety of partner tools, and we do that regularly. We try to align those resources for developers as much as possible, especially now when these projects are getting harder and harder to finance due to market and financial conditions.” 

Employers Taking a Stand

What about Tommie Jones? Her employer is stepping up for its people. Cook Medical is building hundreds of homes that they will sell to their staff at below-market prices. Ms. Jones, who has been with the company for over four years and earns $20/hour says, “I would have never imagined I could have a new house on what I make, but I can. I get a little emotional.” 

Join the Coalition

Together, we can grow thriving, sustainable communities. Find out how by visiting buildindianaroots.com.