By Joe Thallemer
Meeting the broad housing needs of our community is a critical issue and high priority for the city.
Fueling these concerns, among other things, are rising costs for new construction and the lack of available inventory in the resale and rental markets.
Housing shortages have impacted many other communities and are not unique to Warsaw and Kosciusko County. Our local response to that issue is the focus of today’s column.
In an attempt to help validate those concerns, the city collaborated with Kosciusko County and the Kosciusko County Community Foundation to fund a housing study in 2019. ‘Residential Market Potential’ was evaluated using migration and mobility data. The study confirmed what we were being told by our workforce partners and realtors. The results underscored the unmet needs for owner-occupied and rental housing at both market-rate and affordable levels.
Utilizing that information, a housing steering committee was formed in the county to address the issue. ‘Affordable’ typically refers to housing projects whereby construction is subsidized from one of a variety of federal or state programs and in turn, offers subsidized rates to tenants based upon income levels.
Affordable housing is typically designed for either working households or seniors. ‘Market rate’, on the other hand, refers to non-subsidized, private enterprise construction and sale. With the assistance of the aforementioned housing steering committee, local efforts to plan and develop a variety of housing projects have been underway for eighteen months.
As a result of the organized collaboration of local partners, the committee sought and was awarded four million dollars of public and private funding to create a loan fund that will stimulate workforce housing projects in Kosciusko County. Partners who supported the fund include Zimmer Biomet, the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority, and the Lilly Endowment, Inc. (through the Kosciusko County Community Foundation).
The City of Warsaw supports both market-rate and affordable housing projects that meet specific areas of need for our community. We are involved in public-private partnerships that represent a beneficial collaborative approach for local government.
Bearing the cost of utility extension, infrastructure and road improvements, land donation, and demolition are ways the city can directly support those projects. Recent examples of that collaboration include the new senior affordable complex under construction on Center Street and the Little Crow Lofts.
Future projects under consideration include mixed-use building projects on West Market Street at the old Owens grocery site and the soon to begin construction on North Buffalo Street.
The City’s upfront participation is critical. It promotes projects that immediately benefit our citizens. Our return on investment also includes the benefits to our employers, stimulating growth and more development in the original project neighborhood, future tax revenues, and improving the livability of our city and community.
To summarize, it is a priority for the city, to overcome the obstacles to the current housing market shortages and meet workforce and senior housing needs by supporting both affordable and market-rate housing projects. Collaborative community vision has once again, put us in a great position to overcome this problem.
We are just getting started!
Joe Thallemer is the Mayor of Warsaw.