A Conversation with ANDREA DAVIS
—by Mikaili Azziz, Marketing & Communications Associate at CICF
Nestled in the city of Noblesville, local not-for-profit Hamilton County Area Neighborhood Development, Inc. (HAND) is making strides in improving housing conditions for residents in the area. Though the organization was officially founded in 2003 – its early beginnings stretch back to 2000, when a group of Hamilton County residents began a task force to address housing needs. Over 20 years later, HAND has held true to its mission: investing in neighborhoods, providing housing solutions, and building partnerships to improve lives and build community in Hamilton County.
Through an investment with IMPACT Central Indiana, Hamilton County Community Foundation‘s board recently made the largest philanthropic investment in its history—$1.4 million to HAND for its Fishers Cumberland Cottages project.
“HAND Inc. is proposing to develop almost 2 acres of vacant land at the southwest corner of 141st Street and Cumberland Road in Fishers, where it would build 11 rental homes oriented around shared green space.”
Meet Andrea Davis. She currently serves as executive director at HAND and is a recovering journalist who joined the not-for-profit originally as outreach and fundraising coordinator in 2016. Davis was promoted to executive director in 2020.
Greenstreet’s 2022 housing study, released at least year’s HAND Suburban Housing Conference, revealed that Hamilton County is becoming increasingly less affordable for residents. What’s the current state of housing attainability in 2023?
We haven’t done another study, but it is safe to say the county continues to be less affordable for more people. The 2022 study used data from before the COVID-19 pandemic, which we know intensified the housing crisis. And that data didn’t capture the impact of post-pandemic rent increases (sometimes $200-$300 a month) or the past couple years of increasing interest rates. The fact is, housing costs are rising much more quickly than incomes.
What housing statistics might be surprising, or even alarming, to the average Hamilton County resident?
The Greenstreet study found that the sales price of existing homes in Hamilton County increased 88% from 2010 to 2021. I think it’s safe to say incomes did not increase at anywhere close to the same rate during that period. The five “industries” with the most employees in Hamilton County in 2019 were fast food/counter workers, retail sales, customer service representatives, office clerks, and laborers/stocking/freight. All these occupations paid under $20 an hour, with an average of $16.60 an hour for an estimated gross annual income of $34,528 for an individual.
Hamilton County’s median gross rent of $1,265 per month would eat up almost 44% of that worker’s pretax pay.
Hamilton County is home to about 18,735 low- and moderate-income households that spend more than 30% of their household income on housing. That’s almost 15% of all households here.
What solutions are recommended to improve those conditions?
There is no single, simple answer. But there are lots of ideas for ways to increase the production and preservation of attainable housing. Creative financing could make it more feasible to build attainable housing. Communities and organizations could donate property for attainable housing development. Communities could waive fees and/or relax development standards to decrease development costs. Community Land Trusts are another tool that could help keep attainable properties attainable.
Last year, Hamilton County Community Foundation’s board in coordination with IMPACT Central Indiana made a philanthropic investment of $1.4 million. Could you share any updates on this project?
HAND is so grateful for the $1.4 million loan from IMPACT Central Indiana! The below-market interest rate allowed us to borrow enough money to close a funding gap so we can finally get started in Fishers. We are planning to break ground in early June, and construction should take about 10 months to complete. We are very excited to see these plans come to life.
What can attendees expect from this year’s Suburban Housing Conference, themed “Housing our Workforce”?
We will explore the problem with a focus on solutions. A panel of developers will discuss the obstacles they have faced when it comes to building workforce housing, and how they’ve overcome them – if they have. We’ll hear the latest on the General Assembly’s housing legislation, a new regional housing study, and Hamilton County’s planned investment in workforce housing. The keynote speaker, Chris Watts from the Indiana Association of Realtors, will talk about why communities need housing to accommodate their workers. And in the afternoon, we’ll dive into breakout sessions on three potential solutions: Community Land Trusts, Creative Financing for Homeownership, and Modular Construction.
Our housing crisis is not something any one organization can address alone, so we are excited to have a room full of advocates interested in helping!
Author: Mikaili Azziz
Marketing and Communications Associate