Housing and Neighborhood Development, Inc. recently held six public input sessions to update its housing strategy for Hamilton County.
The Noblesville session took place July 13, and residents discussed what affordability means and access to affordable housing in the city.
One of the topics discussed was how Hamilton County is heavy in hospitality industry jobs, but those jobs don’t always provide workers with high enough wages to afford housing in Noblesville and elsewhere in the county.
“The hospitality industry is not a high-paying industry, but it is a growing industry in Hamilton County, and we struggle with finding people who can afford to live here and work in our hotels and our restaurants,” said Sarah Buckner, destination development manager for Hamilton County Tourism. “So, there’s a lot of turnover, especially in our hotels.”
Many of the residents who attended the input session described a starter home as costing less than $100,000, but Noblesville Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Bob DuBois said houses at that price typically aren’t available in the city.
“In this community, starter homes are $170,000, and those are the lowest price points,” he said. “Those are very difficult to find.”
HAND Executive Director Jennifer Miller said even when a lower-priced home is placed on the market, it is often purchased by buyers looking to flip the house to make a profit. She also said between 2000 and 2015, household incomes only increased 21 percent but rents increased 51 percent.
“Affordability is defined as paying 30 percent of your income towards housing and utility costs,” Miller said. “If the community has become less affordable over time, prices have risen faster than wages and people’s incomes.”
HAND hosted a series of similar public input sessions around Hamilton County to learn more about local housing affordability and to prepare and send an updated housing assessment to the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development, which is required every five years.
HAND’s 2018 Housing Conference is scheduled for 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sept. 21 at the Cambria Hotel in Westfield. The conference is $65 to attend. For more, visit handincorporated.org.