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Elkhart to use inner city neighborhood to implement proposed housing strategy

NOW: Elkhart to use inner city neighborhood to implement proposed housing strategy

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ELKHART, Ind. —- People living on State Street and Division Street in Elkhart gave feedback on Thursday night about what it’s like to live in the historical district. 


The City of Elkhart hosted a community conversation to gain more information to help with its proposed housing strategy. The goal is to identify, design, and implement the strategy to address the housing shortage within the city of Elkhart. 


Abby Wiles, the assistant director of community and redevelopment for the City of Elkhart, said last fall the city retained a South Bend innovation group called enFocus to create the housing strategy. She said from a previous study the city recognized there’s a huge unmet need for additional housing units in the city. 


“Multi-family rental housing then there’s also a demand for single-family housing,” Wiles said. 


According to enFocus data, there’s a demand for a market potential of 4,980 housing units in the City of Elkhart. In downtown Elkhart, there’s a need for up to 880 housing units. 


“This neighborhood has heart,” said Sharon Clevenger, who lives in the Division and State neighborhood. 


Clevenger said most of the homes in the neighborhood are great. 


“And then you have like a few that aren’t but you know there’s always that room for improvement here,” she said. 


Clevenger said she’s all for adding new homes to take the place of empty lots and beat up homes. 


The city is in the final stage of it’s $200 million river district revitalization plan. Wiles said those developments are so important and does not want underscore that. 


“But they are not everything,” she said. “We need to concentrate on our inner city neighborhoods.”


Wiles said the city chose State and Division St. to be the pilot area for this housing strategy, because if they can do it there they can replicate it anywhere in the city. She said there are additional architectural requirements since the area is a nationally recognized historic district. 


However some neighbors expressed concern with the project starting in a historic district. 


“We are not in this neighborhood looking to bulldoze and start over we are really concentrating on infill development,” Wiles said. 


According to Wiles, the city owns many property lots in the historic neighborhood. But Wiles said the challenge with this housing strategy will be cost of constructing the homes. 


“The cost to construct isn’t what it often appraised for,” she said. “In our inner city neighborhoods what we struggle with a lot is getting the houses to appraise high enough for someone to be able to secure their mortgage.”


According to the report, potential economic benefits of the housing strategy include: 

  1. New tax revenue,
  2. Talent increase,
  3. New businesses,
  4. Increase in local gross domestic product.

Clevenger said the blend of old and new homes will be fine. 


“It would really add to the historical value of the area already,” she said. 


The housing strategy is being developed in four phases. On Thursday night, the community feedback was apart of phase three. 


According to the reports, the final and fourth pass will be in July 2019. That phase includes: 

  1. Design implementation strategy,
  2. Design pilot parameters, success metrics and tool for continued evaluation after program implementation, 
  3. Outline roadmap for solution scaling,
  4. And address the demand for 4,980 homes in 5 years.  
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