Planning expert: Many college grads can’t afford to return home to Hamilton County


It’s become increasingly difficult for many people – especially first-time buyers – to purchase a home in central Indiana in recent years, including in Carmel.

The Carmel Housing Task Force discussed this issue and its implications at its second meeting, held March 22 at Carmel City Hall.

Andrea Miller, a senior planner with the Indianapolis Metropolitan Planning Organization, reviewed findings from the Central Indiana Housing Study, which was completed earlier this year and aims to provide a regional perspective on housing issues and trends.

While the study looked at an eight-county region, Miller said at least one issue surfaced repeatedly in Hamilton County.

“We saw almost a dismay from residents that so much money is invested in their primary education and their high school, and when they finish college, they want to come back and they can’t,” Miller said. “So, there’s a lot of investment before they are 18, and afterwards there is no place for them to return to.”

In the region, Miller said the study found that between 2020 and 2022, the median sale price of a single-family home rose 31.6 percent and rent increased 21.2 percent while wages rose only 8.8 percent. At the same time, the volume of homes for sale has dropped and interest rates have risen.

The median price of a home in the region is $300,000 and interest rates are near 7.5 percent, Miller said, which means for the home to be affordable (defined as annual payments totaling no more than 25 percent of household income), the buyer must have an annual income of:

  • $89,550 if making a 20 percent down payment ($60,000) on the home
  • $108,150 if making a 10 percent down payment ($30,000) on the home
  • $113,659 if making a 5 percent down payment ($15,000) on the home

“The median household income in central Indiana today is just over $73,000, So when we look at the region in its totality, none of these scenarios allow for a median household to afford the median house here in central Indiana,” Miller said. “So, perhaps it’s unsurprising that we’re seeing the percentages of cost-burdened households when it comes to housing is significant here in central Indiana.”

Task force member Chris Pryor, government affairs director at Realtor association MIBOR, provided local statistics. He said the median home sales price in Carmel is $584,250, which is more than 80 percent higher than the median home sale price in the city in 2017.

He said the number of homes for sale in Carmel has dropped during that time period, with 400 to 500 homes for sale at a given time in 2017 and less than 80 homes for sale at the end of February.

“This is one of the major factors that’s causing prices to increase significantly,” he said.

Miller said the Central Indiana Housing Study’s findings showed that the types of dwellings in the region don’t align with the preferences of those seeking to buy a home. She said there are not enough “small ownership” options – such as duplexes or condos – available, which can cause first-time homebuyers and those looking to downsize to be in competition for the limited supply.

She also said the region has an oversupply of three- to four-bedroom single-family homes compared to what buyers are seeking.

“Today’s housing stock was largely built for what was considered the typical household of yesteryear,” Miller said. “Those households and their housing preferences are changing. So, we know that people are having fewer children later in life, or not at all meaning fewer larger houses aren’t needed. And we know that more singles and couples prefer a walkable lifestyle, shifting demand from single-family only suburban subdivisions. The most preferred neighborhood type is a walkable suburban community.”

The task force’s next meeting, which is set to include a review of single-family housing and trends, is set for 7:30 to 9 a.m. April 25 at Carmel City Hall. Learn more about the task force and watch previous meetings at