Social services agency applying for tax credits to build apartments on Shawnee Drive.
Carol Johnson, Southern Indiana Business Report
BEDFORD – Hoosier Uplands has completed a number of affordable housing projects in the five counties it serves and is looking to add to the rental housing stock in Lawrence County.
The nonprofit that provides health and social services in Crawford, Lawrence, Martin, Orange and Washington counties, plans to construct rental housing for adults 55 and older on Shawnee Drive in Bedford.
“Housing is a huge need and it covers all ages,” said David Miller, CEO of Hoosier Uplands.
Hoosier Uplands is applying for federal tax credits to construct a 32-unit apartment building of 1- and 2-bedroom apartments for senior adults. Purchasing the property, near the Holiday Inn Express, is contingent on Hoosier Uplands being approved for the tax credits. A public hearing to rezone the property from business to residential is set for April 11 at City Concourse.
Miller said the application process is competitive, but he feels the agency has a strong chance of being approved. Applications are scored by the state, which administers its allocation of housing tax credits from the federal government. Hoosier Uplands will be notified in November if it’s approved for the tax credits. Construction would begin in summer of 2024 with completion in 2025. Because it would be a tax credit project, the rent will be determined by federal guidelines.
The units will all be single story and handicapped accessible. In addition, a few units will be designated for adults at risk of being homeless.
Bedford Mayor Sam Craig supports the project and said it will be a benefit for the entire community in addition to meeting a pressing need for seniors.
Hoosier Uplands’ first affordable housing project was Shawnee Apartments in Bedford. Constructed in 2000, it has 56 units. Since then, the agency has built about a dozen complexes, with 436 apartments in five counties.
Hoosier Uplands also is owner/manager of two other apartment complexes in Bedford – Stalker Apartments and Stonecutters Place Apartments. Applicants must meet income guidelines. Stonecutters is for adults 55 and older who meet income guidelines; the complex always has a wait list of applicants.
One of the reasons Hoosier Uplands chose Bedford for the project is the city has a public transportation system, which is looked on favorably in the tax credit scoring process.
“The population is getting older and the need is going to be greater,” Miller said. “If not for tax credit programs, there would be no incentive to build affordable apartments for low to middle income residents.”
Many older adults live in housing they either can no longer maintain or their home has become sub-standard and they can’t afford repairs or make repairs themselves.
The need for more housing
Affordable housing is an issue for all eight counties in the Radius Indiana region, whether it’s rental properties or single-family homes.
A Regional Opportunity Initiatives housing study of Lawrence County completed in 2019 examined the inventory, cost of condition of housing and projected the future of housing to meet demand.
Among the findings:
• There is a shortage of housing for households making less than $25,000, a market that cannot be filled through new construction market rate housing.
• Most rental units are priced between $400 and $800 a month, a market that can also be difficult for the private market to construct without assistance from programs like low-income housing tax credits.
• The very sizable surplus exists for households making between $25,000 and $50,000 annually. Indicating that a large number of households earning between $50,000 and $100,000 are filling housing that would be affordable to lower income households.
• The overall housing market in Lawrence County is considered affordable. A healthy, self-sustaining housing market will have a value to income ratio between 2 and 3. Lawrence County has a value to income ratio of 2.18 with a number of areas falling below 2. These lower value areas may experience a significant gap between what it costs to construct new housing and appraisal value. This gap has to be filled either by the buyer or some other initiative at the time of financing
Costs vs. income
• According to the U.S. government, households spending more than 30% of their income on housing are considered cost burdened.
• Approximately 41% of Lawrence County’s households living in renter housing are cost burdened. Only 23% of households living in owner-occupied housing spend more than 30% of their income on housing.
• The high percent of rent burdened residents is a result of low inventory of rental property within Lawrence County, driving costs for rental units higher and likely resulting in a mismatch between cost and quality.
• Based on 2017 data, median rents are also average for the region at $493.