What started as a few nonprofit and government leaders working together to keep Hamilton County residents housed during the COVID-19 pandemic has grown into a broader alliance of organizations focused on developing a countywide housing strategy.
The immediate fallout from the pandemic revealed that many Hamilton County households are living on the edge, one medical crisis, job furlough or family emergency away from disaster—in large part because housing costs are increasing more quickly than incomes.
Millions of dollars in public and private grants for emergency rental and utility assistance programs have helped many households avert disaster and start to catch up, but the federal eviction moratorium ends July 31, putting others at risk of being displaced.
And those short-term solutions don’t do anything to address the long-term problem: Hamilton County needs a wider range of housing options that are affordable to all residents, regardless of age, income, or occupation.
HAND Inc., which has been building and preserving affordable housing here since 2003, is one of the Hamilton County Housing Collaborative’s founding members, along with Family Promise of Hamilton County, the Westfield-Washington Township Trustee’s Office, and the Noblesville Housing Authority. Dozens of others have joined the alliance in the past few months as the group’s focus has shifted to the future.
Now the Housing Collaborative is soliciting proposals for a Housing Needs Assessment & Strategy Study, which members will use to make data-based recommendations about how to increase the county’s attainable housing inventory. Organizers also hope to incorporate findings from the City of Noblesville’s 2016 Housing Analysis and a pending 2021 update. The City of Fishers just selected a consultant for a housing study that’s expected to take eight months to complete.
Ultimately, the Collaborative hopes to make a case for additional public and private investment in attainable housing to meet Hamilton County’s needs, both now and in the future.
One potential source of funding: tens of millions of dollars of federal funding awarded to Hamilton County and the cities of Carmel, Fishers, Noblesville, and Westfield through the American Rescue Plan. The smaller towns of Arcadia, Atlanta, Cicero, and Sheridan also are slated to receive ARP funding, from the state’s allocation.
The money is intended to help communities recover from the impact of COVID-19, and affordable housing development is specifically mentioned as an eligible use in U.S. Treasury Department guidelines.
Hamilton County has not yet determined how to spend its $65 million allocation, but a committee that includes all three County Commissioners and three rotating members of the County Council are putting together an “investment plan” for the first of two expected installments. Once approved by the Board of Commissioners, the spending plan will be published on the county website.