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.