An Open Letter to Hamilton County from Nate Lichti

Dear Hamilton County:

I wanted to express my gratitude to the people of Hamilton County for extending me your trust during my service as the Executive Director of HAND.  My first time in downtown Noblesville was when I interviewed for the position in 2012, and since then I’ve gotten to know this community in exceptional ways.  In addition to city leaders and neighborhood advocates, the Good Samaritan Network, Chambers of Commerce, and Hamilton County Leadership Academy (HCLA) all provided great introductions to the best of what Hamilton County has to offer.

As you continue to lead the State in so many ways, I encourage you to maintain a long view and pursue comprehensive strategies that will lead to a healthier, more vibrant region.  Through a participatory process, HAND has developed a comprehensive set of strategies to deal with prominent community issues such as: Growth, General Affordability, Sustainability and Senior Housing.  In building these partnerships, HAND has proven to be a true community asset, and I hope you will continue to invest in and support HAND’s mission.

Once the new director begins, I encourage you to get involved in helping to define concrete action steps that can be taken.  These actions require resources, and HAND has come a long way without substantial local support.  This will need to change for HAND to maintain a robust presence across the county.  HAND’s Board of Directors is going to lead a campaign to generate long-term support, and I hope communities step forward to address these needs.

Local support could allow HAND to focus on delivering services, partnering with neighborhoods and designing local solutions.  I hope communities can jump on board and find ways to make meaningful pledges so everyone can move quickly into the more important conversations – what local solutions would we like to explore?

HAND’s Board recently reaffirmed its commitment to two local solutions – the Noblesville Granary and Blackhawk Commons. After assessing the results and learning just how close each project came to getting funded in February, we know these projects have a very high probability of getting funded in 2017.  Since they also provide the greatest potential community impact and best housing options possible, HAND will continue to explore these possibilities.

Another potential path to long-term, substantial change comes in connection to the recent COIT disbursement approved by the State.  Local communities maintained control over 25% of the $65 Million, so I’m going to throw one idea into the hopper: What if 10% of the funds were deployed to start a Hamilton County Housing Trust Fund that would support the development of innovative, quality affordable housing projects?

These Trust Funds are a common way to pool community resources to support projects that provide real impact.  Once capitalized, a county-wide Housing Advisory Council could provide recommendations on what investments would have the greatest benefit. If not these funds, how about another ongoing source?

For example, Hamilton County could start a program to help teachers, firefighters and police officers to purchase housing in the communities they serve; provide emergency and transitional support to victims of domestic violence; develop housing that Millennials can afford; and more.  Smart private developers could easily leverage these funds to generate $3+ for every $1 committed locally (HAND typically achieves a $20:$1 leverage).  Let’s not let your fears of what might happen stop you from addressing real pressing problems faced by those living with unstable housing.

I trust you will continue to support HAND by thinking globally and acting locally. Everyone in Hamilton County can play an important role by supporting the soon to be unveiled public awareness campaign.  Started by an HCLA team, the campaign will spread the message by distributing decals to be displayed by HAND’s supporters.  Churches, schools, and civic groups can help spread the message that Hamilton County can be sustainable, diverse and livable by promoting a “Housing for All” strategy.

With your help, HAND will be an essential community partner that helps you build quality, safe and sustainable neighborhoods.  I urge you to get involved, pledge your support, and contribute real solutions to the cause.

With gratitude,

Nate Lichti

Outgoing Executive Director