A group of nonprofits and government leaders have formed the Hamilton County Housing Collaborative, an alliance to develop a countywide housing strategy and to secure funds for affordable housing.
Founding members are HAND Inc., Family Promise of Hamilton County, the Westfield-Washington Township Trustee’s Office, the Noblesville Housing Authority and the Hamilton County Community Foundation.
“A couple groups focused on housing came together and said, ‘Let’s get some of the housing providers together and think about how we can get through COVID without this being a terrible experience,’” HAND Executive Director Andrea Davis said. “We just knew right away when people started losing jobs that keeping people housed was going to be an issue.”
The group began meeting in June to plan how to prevent evictions as the then-federal eviction moratorium ended July 31. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has since announced a limited eviction moratorium for renters in communities with substantial or high transmission of COVID-19. The moratorium protects renters through Oct. 3.
The Hamilton County Housing Collaborative will conduct a housing study and pursue some of the $65 million American Rescue Plan Act funds the county was awarded, if any remain.
A request for proposals for the study has been sent out and HAND will receive the proposals by the end of the month and begin reviewing them. The group will then gather data and seek input from the public and employers with workforce development challenges.
“One of thing we think data will show, certainly the 2018 study did, (is) that as we add employers, we add the need for different kinds of housing,” Davis said. “Not every employer can pay six figures. We’ve built this great community where people want to live, and I think we should make it a little easier for them to do that.”
Davis said one of the things ARPA money is intended to do is help with economic mobility.
“We know that the low-income population and minority population were impacted by COVID at a greater rate and much more seriously than even moderate-income populations,” Davis said. “Part of the rescue act money was intended to make sure should something like this happen again, they aren’t as hurt as they were here.”
Davis said if Hamilton County ARPA funds are available after data is gathered, the Hamilton County Housing Collaborative plans to make a case for the county to invest in a long-term solution.
“The problem (evictions/foreclosures) exists because they’re spending too much for housing to begin with, so if we add affordable options and invest money in a long-term strategy, if something happens again (like COVID-19), we won’t be in quite as dire a situation,” Davis said. “The origins of this group are how to make a case for some of that. We recognize that’s one-time money and this is a long-time problem, but that would give us a jump start.”
Other goals with the study are to create a five-year strategy.
“Even if are able to get an investment from the (ARPA) money, that’s not the end,” Davis said. “We will continue to make the case and get the community invested in this.”