Category Archives: Current News

HAND promotes Davis to Executive Director

HAND Inc.’s Board of Directors has promoted Andrea Muirragui Davis to Executive Director, effective immediately. Davis has been serving as Interim Executive Director since November.

Interim Deputy Director Rebekah Metzger was named Development Director, a shift made to emphasize the nonprofit organization’s ongoing focus on neighborhood and community development.

“We are excited with the progress that both Andrea and Rebekah have made in continuing HAND’s mission,” Board Chairman Keith Broadnax said of the appointments, approved May 14. “If there was ever a need for affordable housing, it is now. We are committed to continuing to serve the affordable housing needs of our families and communities.”

Davis is a Fort Wayne native who graduated from Ball State University and worked as a newspaper journalist for more than 20 years, most recently serving as Indianapolis Business Journal’s North Editor covering Hamilton and Boone counties. She joined HAND in 2016 as Outreach Coordinator.

“I am thrilled to be able to work on addressing the need for additional housing options in the suburbs,” she said. “Our communities are wonderful places to work, play and live, but too many of those who work to make them attractive simply can’t afford to live here too. That’s not OK.”

A resident of Fishers, Davis serves on the boards of the Hamilton County Leadership Academy and SERVE Noblesville. She also is a member of Fishers Tri Kappa, the Breathe Easy Hamilton County Coalition and 100+ Women Who Care of Hamilton County.

Metzger, who lives in Indianapolis, graduated from Indiana University and is a member of the Hamilton County Leadership Academy Class of 2020. Prior to joining HAND as Project Manager in 2017, she worked for the John Boner Neighborhood Center in Indianapolis. Metzger is a certified Housing Development Finance Professional.

The HAND board’s decision comes the same week the organization was awarded a $150,000 grant from United Way of Central Indiana to provide rental assistance to residents affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Founded in 2003 as Hamilton County Area Neighborhood Development Inc., HAND addresses the housing needs of low- and moderate-income individuals, families and senior citizens in Indianapolis’ northern suburbs. It owns seven affordable rental communities in Hamilton County and one in Boone County, leasing a total of 137 units. A ninth development is proposed in Tipton.

HAND wins grant for COVID-related rental assistance

United Way of Central Indiana has awarded HAND a $150,000 grant to provide rental assistance to Hamilton County residents affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The funding, announced May 14, was part of $1.8 million awarded to 50 organizations in suburban Indianapolis thanks to a recent $3.5 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. to help meet the needs of Central Indiana communities outside Marion County.

HAND is collaborating with Hamilton County township trustees’ offices to help renters experiencing financial difficulties because of the public health emergency. Although Gov. Eric Holcomb has paused eviction and foreclosure proceedings through at least June 4, residents still are responsible for paying their rent or mortgage.

According to National Multifamily Housing Council research, about 31 percent of tenants did not pay rent during the first week of April, shortly after Indiana and many other states implemented Stay Home orders.

Township trustees already are the initial point of contact for Hamilton County residents seeking emergency financial help. Once HAND’s rental assistance fund is established, trustees may refer qualified clients for additional aid.

Since March, HAND has been working with other local nonprofits, including the Hamilton County Trustees Association, to ensure those affected by the pandemic know their housing rights and responsibilities. HAND’s website, www.handincorporated.org, has become a clearinghouse of information about local housing resources available during the COVID crisis.

Founded in 2003 as Hamilton County Neighborhood Development Inc., HAND addresses the housing needs of low- and moderate-income individuals, families and senior citizens in Indianapolis’ northern suburbs. The nonprofit owns seven affordable rental communities in Hamilton County and one in Boone County.

Stories of Home: Mom hunts for affordable apartment

Noblesville resident Sarma Miller is a single mom looking for an apartment she can afford to live in with her 17-month-old daughter—while still feeling safe. She isn’t having much luck.

“I like it here in Noblesville. It is a nice place to live, but the prices for apartments are so expensive,” said Miller, 23. Even most one-bedroom apartments are out of reach for the mother and daughter, she said.

After searching in both Hamilton County and Marion County for apartments, Miller found several in Indianapolis that she could afford. But she isn’t comfortable with the neighborhoods where they are located.

“For me, now that I have daughter, the safety of the area is my number one priority,” explained Miller, who works as a full-time lab assistant at Indiana University Health in downtown Indianapolis.

Miller is not alone. Hamilton County’s relatively low crime rate makes it an attractive place to raise a family, but the high cost of housing means few options for those like her who are still on their way up the career ladder.

The cost of living is higher in Hamilton County than both statewide and national averages, and many low- and middle-income households spend more than the recommended 30 percent of their income to live in the county. Indeed, the United Way’s 2018 ALICE Report found that almost 25,000 Hamilton County households have trouble making ends meet on a monthly basis.

Miller, who from Purdue University in 2019 with a degree in Human Development and Family Studies, is frustrated with the differences in the housing market in Hamilton County compared to West Lafayette.

“In West Lafayette, housing was much more reasonable. It catered to students and more middle-class people,” she said. “It still has areas for people with higher incomes, but it has options for people in every price point.”

According to HAND’s 2018 Housing Needs Assessment, 62 percent of Hamilton County households spend over 30 percent of their income on housing.

Although Miller’s search has been slowed by the state’s Stay At Home order due to COVID-19, when the order is lifted she still hopes to find a place in Hamilton County that suits her needs.

Agencies push awareness of rent/mortgage duties, relief

Social service agencies know there are two curves that impact communities in crisis: the immediate impact from the event and the second wave of impact on residents in the weeks and months following.

The current COVID-19 pandemic is no exception, said Nancy Chance, Hamilton County’s coordinator for service organizations active in disaster relief and executive director of the Good Samaritan Network. Just weeks into the crisis, her agency saw an 82 percent increase in requests for support last week as rents and mortgages came due.

The National Multi-Family Housing Council reported that 13 percent more Americans failed to pay their rent in April than in the previous year, putting as much as one-third of all renters at risk for housing insecurity. That number is expected to increase as the country continues to combat the pandemic and look toward recovery.

A group of housing-related service agencies wants residents to be aware of their rights and responsibilities.

Studies show more than 60 percent of Hamilton County residents already spend more of their budget than is recommended on housing-related costs, said Andrea Davis, interim executive director of HAND Inc. The community development organization’s website is serving as the clearinghouse for local housing resources during the crisis.

“We want residents who may be out of work or on reduced pay during the pandemic to know that while all evictions and foreclosures have been temporarily ‘paused’ by Gov. Eric Holcomb, everyone ultimately will be responsible for that rent or mortgage,” said Danielle Carey Tolan, Trustee for Westfield Washington Township.

Agencies such as the Noblesville Housing Authority want to urge residents whose income has been affected by COVID-19 to contact their landlord or mortgage holder as soon as possible to discuss payment options. And when households receive their checks from the CARES Act, they should prioritize its use.

For those simply unable to continue to pay their rent and/or utilities despite the government programs, there is a small pool of emergency funds available locally, depending on eligibility.

If denied assistance by your township trustee or other source, residents can reach out to the Good Samaritan Network at GSNLive.org and apply for support there. Generally, support is limited to one month, however.

 Utility companies also have announced forbearance during the crisis, but those fees also continue to accrue. Hamilton County residents apply for help from Good Samaritan Network’s Energy Assistance Program.

 “Demand for these services will be much higher than normal,” said Nancy Ramsey, Executive Director of Family Promise of Hamilton County, which provides temporary housing for families facing homelessness. “Our program can provide supportive services should homelessness happen, but we want to use preventative measures to keep families housed.” https://coronavirus.in.gov/https://coronavirus.in.gov/

Trivia Night a success

Crowd at Trivia Night

HAND’s third-annual Trivia Night on Feb. 28 raised almost $13,000 to support affordable housing programs in Indianapolis’ northern suburbs, up from about $9,000 last year.

A total of 22 eight-person teams participated in the general trivia competition hosted by Indy’s Live Trivia. After two tie-breakers, the Citizens State Bank team emerged as the winner.

In addition to a raffle and silent auction, the 2020 event included a dessert auction, which raised $987 alone. Each table bid on the chance to get the first choice of desserts, which were donated. The top-bidding table chose a chocolate cake from Classic Cakes in Carmel. A donation from Classic Cakes iNothing Bundt Cakes in Fishers was named the most creative dessert.

Trivia Night helps to support HAND’s programs, including developing affordable rental properties for seniors and families, and a home-repair program to preserve existing affordable housing stock. Since its beginning in 2003, HAND has invested over $21 million in suburban housing.

Many thanks to Trivia Night sponsor Breathe Easy Hamilton County, and to our other dessert donors: Perkins Restaurant and Bakery, Harbour Market, White House Donuts, the Goodie Basket, Janus Development Services, Ginger’s Café, Edible Arrangements, Titus Bakery, and Kolache Factory.

Founded in 2003 as Hamilton County Area Neighborhood Development Inc., HAND’s mission is to be a leader in promoting prosperity and diversity in its communities by providing quality housing opportunities for low- and moderate-income individuals and families.