Carmel Housing Task Force: Pushback from ‘small, vocal minority’ among challenges in developing dwelling options for ‘missing middle’


At the first meeting of the Carmel Housing Task Force, much of the discussion focused around challenges of expanding the city’s inventory of dwelling options beyond single-family homes or apartments.

The nine-member task-force gathered Feb. 23 at Carmel City Hall to hear about a local real estate study conducted by public policy research firm ECOnorthwest, discuss its findings and gather feedback from the community.

According to Kryn Sausedo, senior project manager with ECOnorthwest, nearly 75 percent of dwellings in Carmel are detached single-family homes, and the median sale prices of those homes is the higher than nearby comparison areas in Fishers, Westfield, Noblesville and downtown Indianapolis (although the difference is closer when compared by square footage).

The number of apartments has been growing in Carmel in recent years, but so too have rents. Carmel had the steepest climb in rent costs among comparable cities between 2013 and 2023 and finished second in total cost, slightly behind downtown Indianapolis, in rent per square foot.

Suasedo said that these dynamics have created the “missing middle,” or lack of housing products that fall between single-family and large-scale multi-family dwelling options. “Missing middle” housing includes duplexes, fourplexes and townhomes, he said, and the lack of inventory makes it more difficult for those looking to downsize to stay in Carmel or first-time buyers to consider living here.

“If you can keep that churn happening, where older adults can downsize, open up single-family homes for younger families, you get a little more fluidity, more movement within the housing market so that there are more options for young professionals who want a first-time homebuyer opportunity,” he said.

Henry Mestetsky
Henry Mestetsky

Henry Mestetsky, director of the Carmel Redevelopment Commission, said Carmel struggles to develop “missing middle” housing because of opposition to these types of projects in established neighborhoods on the east and west sides of town and land prices too high to make those types of projects feasible in the central core.

Mike Hollibaugh, director of Carmel’s Department of Community Services, agreed and pointed to the Andrews planned unit development project under consideration by the Carmel City Council as an example. When initially proposed in 2023, the neighborhood was set to have 46 townhomes and 14 duplexes with prices starting in the $500,000s, but – after remonstrance from community members and other factors – the latest iteration of the project is set to have 30 single-family homes expected to cost $700,000 to $750,000. He said acknowledging that part of the problem “is actually ourselves” should theoretically lead to an “easy fix.”

“We have to have courage, and the developers have to have courage, but also they need confidence that the city is going to have their back,” Hollibaugh said. “We often hear (about) predictability, that no one is going to spend thousands of dollars and months to get to the project point and then find that (housing options) we know we need can’t be approved.”

Task force member Chris Pryor, government affairs director at Realtor association MIBOR, said that pushback from a “small, vocal minority” often leads to housing options sought by a large segment of the population not being approved by the city.

“Those products then get changed, because the plan commission or the council force developers to go back and change their plans, so we’re missing the mark,” Pryor said. “We need to listen to what our public wants. We need to create a vision for the community, and then we need to stick with that plan. We need to not be swayed by a small, vocal minority when they claim things that maybe don’t have factual data to back them up.”

Launched by Carmel Mayor Sue Finkam, the task force consists of housing experts, community leaders and other stakeholders. The information gathered through their efforts will help guide the city’s future housing strategy.

“We’re in challenging times,” she said. “Never have we been so mobile as a workforce; never have we had such housing challenges as far as availability, accessibility and affordability; and never have we had such a flight to rental from both our younger demographic, who’s leaving college with high student loan debt, and those who are 55-plus and don’t want the requirements of mowing and keeping up a two-story home. So, we have lots of questions to ask.”

View video of the task force’s first meeting and presentation slides at

Upcoming meetings

Upcoming Carmel Housing Task Force meetings and topics are:

  • March 21 – Population, demographic and workforce trends
  • April 25 – Single-family housing market review and trends
  • May 23 – Multi-family housing market review and trends
  • June 27 – Housing-for-all approaches; peer city review
  • July 25 – Draft report

Meetings will take place from 7:30 to 9 a.m. at Carmel City Hall.